Troupe429, an LGBTQ bar in Norwalk. Harold F. Cobin

What Happened

On Sept. 23 at Troupe429 — an LGBTQ bar in Norwalk — an assailant “repeatedly made disparaging statements about the bar and the people inside it, and used derogatory and anti-LGBTQ words,” before becoming violent.

He went on to punch co-owner Casey Fitzgerald in the throat and then repeatedly punched co-owner Nicholas Ruiz in the face, causing a wound that required 50 stitches to close and “$20,000 in plastic surgery,” Fitzgerald said.

More details of the attack on Nancy on Norwalk.

Norwalk Police are investigating a disturbance at Troupe429, a Wall Street LGBTQ bar and performance space, a spokesperson said. The statement came after bar co-owners went public with an allegation that the “hate crime” was not being seriously pursued.

Witnesses will confirm a hate crime was committed at Troupe429, a lawyer representing the victims said on Oct. 13.

Attorney Stephanie Stich’s comments came after Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik spoke to multiple news organizations, offering further details about the incident and explaining that NPD officers had no reason to suspect a hate crime given the evidence they collected Sept. 23.

Kulhawik said victims Nicholas Ruiz and Casey Fitzgerald did not show for an appointment to give sworn statements about the incident. Stich said they didn’t have an appointment. They feel traumatized and are eager to cooperate, according to Stich.

Carmen Everett Parisi, 34, of Norwalk was arrested at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday and charged with two counts of assault third degree, police said. He was held on $75,000 bond and was expected in Stamford court Thursday. Parisi was arrested on a warrant and the State’s Attorney determined the charges, Kulhawik said.

The state judicial website shows the charges against Parisi are assault second degree (a D felony) and assault third degree (a misdemeanor). The NPD arrest log shows him charged with one count of assault third degree. Blake said Friday that the information given in the news conference is correct, that he was charged with two counts of assault third degree, “however the prosecutor can change the charges or in this case upgrade a charge.”

The state judicial website also showed Friday that Parisi’s bond was raised to $200,000.

Fitzgerald went public on Oct. 11 with complaints that the Norwalk Police Department had mishandled the case. Ruiz needed more than 50 stitches to close the wounds on his face and will require $20,000 in surgery, Fitzgerald said in a website post, alleging that police hadn’t interviewed witnesses and hadn’t updated the victims on the investigation. It had been nearly two and a half weeks and there had been no arrest, he said.

Kulhawik said on Oct. 13 that it’s possible police made mistakes in communicating, “But our ultimate goal hasn’t changed. We want to do a thorough investigation and we want to work with them.”

Lt. Terry Blake, the department’s LGBTQ+ liaison, said, “The Norwalk Police Department (and) city couldn’t be more supportive of the LGBTQ community and all communities within the city of Norwalk. Our number one concern and duty remains serving the residents to the highest standard, which means ensuring the safety and protection of everyone, including the LBGTQ-plus community here in Norwalk.”

Fitzgerald’s Tuesday post alleged that the assault was a hate crime. The assailant “repeatedly made disparaging statements about the bar and the people inside it, and used derogatory and anti-LGBTQ words,” and after being escorted outside, attacked both of them physically.

Police first learned about the alleged hate speech in the viral social media posts that ensued from Troupe429’s posts, Kulhawik said.

“We take these allegations of hate speech, including anti LGBTQ hate speech very seriously,” Blake said. “… As mentioned, Tuesday was the first time that we heard the allegations of hate speech.”

“If we get new information, if we get evidence that another charge is appropriate, then we’ll follow that up, contact the Prosecutor’s Office and ask that the charges be amended or new charges be added,” Kulhawik said.

Fitzgerald had said the suspect was handcuffed and put into a patrol car. He believed the suspect had an outstanding warrant yet had not been taken into custody.

Kulhawik said Parisi did not have any outstanding warrants when the incident occurred.

Police apprehended a bloodied Parisi down the block because an off-duty Troupe429 employee chased him after the assault and he had gone into a nearby bar, Kulhawik said. Parisi was put into a patrol car and taken back to the bar “to sort out what happened.” He refused medical treatment.

A supervisor decided to seek a warrant, Kulhawik said. “When we’re making an arrest by warrant, the State’s Attorney’s Office basically requires a sworn statement from the victim” but “for whatever reason, they chose not to give a sworn statement.”

Police used surveillance video from the bar and successfully sought a warrant, he said.

Stich arrived after the news conference and spoke to reporters outside.

“There were no appointments ever scheduled. The victims want nothing more than justice and have been very cooperative,” she said.

“We are very grateful that the police made an arrest yesterday,” she said. “And we’re confident that upon further investigation once the police take sworn statements of the witnesses who have already come forward… This will be categorized as what it is, a hate crime.”

Kulhawik said some witnesses had come forward Wednesday night only to be told by a desk officer that the investigating officer was not on duty. Desk personnel have since been instructed to contact a supervisor if anyone comes in to speak about the case and make sure they’re taken care of.

Stich said a drag show was underway that night and the drag performers want to “recount what happened.” Three female victims were harassed by Parisi and asked the bartenders for help; Parisi was escorted outside, and Ruiz spoke to him calmly for about five minutes, then Parisi used the F-word and punched him.

Fitzgerald restrained Parisi while Ruiz called police, then, believing Parisi had calmed, released him only to be punched in the trachea, according to Stich. As Fitzgerald lay on the ground unable to breathe, Parisi brutally assaulted Ruiz.

Now, “Emotionally, they are very damaged,” Stich said. “They are very scared. Physically, they’re also very damaged. Casey was was punched in the throat. And Nicolas was punched in the face. He has lacerations all over his face, he has nerve damage to his eye. And they’re very afraid for their safety.”

“I believe that the police are still in the very early stages of this investigation. No sworn statements of witnesses have been taken yet. And to our knowledge the footage of the attack has also not been used by the police,” Stich said. “We believe that once all of this comes to light it will be evidence that this was a hate crime.”

Asked about Fitzgerald’s post saying the investigation was mishandled, that witnesses had not been interviewed, and that they hadn’t been updated, Kulhawik said that police reached out to the pair after the incident, not that night, to try to get sworn written statements. Kulhawik said they provided bar video and, “They were aware of what our process was going to be.”

“I can only assume that they’re just frustrated with the time that it took to get it done and to get to get the warrant signed,” he said. “But every case is different, you know, some cases we can settle quickly. Some… There’s still information that we’re getting, that we’re still going to follow up on even now, after the suspect was arrested yesterday.”

He said, “We all want to get to the bottom of this and make sure that all avenues are vetted. And if there’s other charges, so be it. If not, you know, that’s the case too, but we want to do the right thing for everybody.”

This story was originally published on Oct. 20, 2022, by Nancy on Norwalk.