A Meriden man charged with murder was tied to the homicide by video footage and a shell casing fired from the gun he was allegedly carrying when police responded to a Southington car crash on Oct. 27, according to an arrest warrant obtained by the Hartford Courant.
Victor Perez, 43, of Meriden was charged with one count of murder on Oct. 29 in connection to the homicide of Jose Principe, 28, of Waterbury. Principe was found dead in a car that crashed into a utility pole in a parking lot on Queen Street in Southington on Oct. 27.
An officer arrived on the scene of the one-car crash on Oct. 27 and reported that two men were standing by the passenger seat of a Mazda. One of the men, later identified as Perez, reportedly noticed the officer and began pleading for help.
The officer approached the vehicle and found a man, later identified as Principe, face down in the passenger seat, unresponsive. The vehicle was registered to Principe, the warrant said. Further responders arrived on the scene and began to render aid to Principe, who was then transported to the Bradley Memorial campus of the Hospital of Central Connecticut, the warrant said.
The officer attempted to interview Perez, who said he had gone to Hollywood Bar down the street with a couple of friends. Perez said he left the bar and walked down the street and saw the crash, according to the warrant.
While speaking with the officer, Perez said he did not have a photo ID on him and identified himself as Luis Rivera. A database search found no record of a Luis Rivera born on the day Perez provided, the warrant said. Perez tried to walk away from the scene and the officer requested he come back. Perez reportedly kept grabbing at his pants near a fanny pack on his waist and would not comply with the officer’s requests, the warrant said.
The officer then asked Perez if he had any weapons on him and asked him to open his fanny pack. Perez opened the fanny pack and revealed a large sum of cash in one pocket and a single bullet in a smaller pocket, according to the warrant.
The officer told Perez he would be handcuffed, but Perez resisted before ultimately being cuffed, the warrant said. A pat down of Perez revealed he was carrying a .25 caliber semi-automatic pistol in his front pants pocket, according to the warrant. Perez was arrested and placed into a cruiser. A database search revealed Perez was a convicted felon, which disqualifies him from owning a handgun or pistol under Connecticut law. He was charged with criminal possession of a revolver and interfering with an officer’s investigation and held on a $750,000 bond.
Principe was pronounced dead at the hospital following transport on Oct. 27. Hospital staff found he had sustained a single gunshot wound to the upper right back while examining him, according to the warrant. A projectile was lodged into his torso, the warrant said.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on the day of the incident and found the cause of death to be a homicide and the manner of death to be a gunshot wound to the torso, with injuries to the lung and heart. The projectile was removed from his torso and turned over to police as evidence, according to the warrant.
Detectives attempted to test Perez’s hands for traces of gunshot residue while he was in custody on Oct. 28. According to the warrant, Perez reportedly began wailing and claimed that detectives broke his ribs and then his wrist while detectives tried to swap his hands. Perez declined medical attention both times. He ultimately allowed detectives to swab his hands, according to the warrant.
Perez told detectives he did not know why he was arrested and claimed he was a “good Samaritan” who was “only trying to help the victim of an incident,” the warrant said.
Detectives also spoke with bar staff at Hollywood Bar on Oct. 27 and were told that Perez had shown up at the bar with two friends with a large sum of cash, the warrant said. The two friends left Perez when he would not pay for their entry, according to the staff. Perez was thrown out of the bar for “acting inappropriately,” the warrant said. Perez told police at the scene the bouncers sprayed him with mace before he left the bar.
He reportedly tried to slash vehicle tires in the parking lot with a knife that he was carrying, staff told police according to the warrant. Video surveillance showed Perez leaving the bar and walking south on Queen Street.
Detectives also obtained still photos from the cameras at Cumberland Farms, the closest gas station to Hollywood Bar. According to the warrant, photos showed Perez and the victim together in the parking lot before the crash.
The warrant said photos showed Principe’s Mazda backing up with Perez standing near the passenger side. Perez is reportedly seen lunging toward the vehicle and punching his right hand forward toward the vehicle. He is then seen tucking his right hand under his left arm and a shiny metallic object appears to be in his hand, according to the warrant. The .25 caliber pistol that Perez had with him at the scene had a chrome finish, the warrant said.
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Another video from an adjacent business showed that Perez and Principe had a face-to-face encounter near the edge of the roadway before walking out of camera view, according to the warrant.
Further surveillance cameras along Queen Street reportedly showed Perez walking from Cumberland Farms toward the crash site. No other people were seen on video in the area or with Perez and Principe, the warrant said.
Police later found a single .25 caliber shell casing in the area of the parking lot that Perez and Principe were seen in on the video, the warrant said.
The shell casing was later forensically compared to the .25 caliber handgun Perez was carrying at the scene and was found to be a match, the warrant said. The bullet found in Principe’s back was also compared with the gun, but results were not returned before the warrant was filed, the warrant said.
Police had also reportedly seized a cellphone from Perez at the scene. Perez initially told police he did not have a phone with him and later reported he had one with him up until officers arrested him, according to the warrant.
While investigating, detectives retrieved the phone from the evidence locker and called Principe’s number. The phone seized from Perez rang, indicating it was the property of the victim, the warrant said.
Following these findings, detectives applied and obtained an arrest warrant charging Perez with murder.