FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Officer Mike Paris found a loaded 9mm handgun and marijuana in the taxi cab of a convicted felon who is connected with the Russell Peeler case during a routine cellphone stop early Monday, Fairfield police said.
Paris drove past a stopped Yellow Taxi Cab whose driver was holding a cellphone to his ear at a stop sign at Chambers Street and Johnson Drive shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, police said. Paris went up to the vehicle and asked the driver what he was doing, the police report said. The driver, Albrent Daniels, 39, of Bridgeport, responded, "I'm on the phone," before driving off as he was being warned it was illegal to talk on the cellphone while driving, police said.
Paris caught up with Daniels on the entrance ramp to I-95 northbound and took him into custody, police said. As the officer searched the cab, he found a loaded handgun with 11 rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber and the serial number scratched off, as well as a grinder with marijuana, police said. A patdown of the suspect revealed a second bag of marijuana, police said.
While conducting a background check of Daniels, officers determined he was a convicted felon who was involved in the sale of the gun that shot and killed the mother and son witnesses in the Russell Peeler case in 1999, police said.
The Fairfield department was also working with Bridgeport police in identifying a spent shell casing that was found in the cab.
A cab driver carrying a loaded weapon in the car is "of great concern" to the department, Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said.
The Connecticut State Department of Transportation told MacNamara that felons who are convicted of weapon or drug charges are not permitted to drive taxis in the state. However, if the cab company hires them as contractors the state regulations on background checks do not apply, he said.
"We rely on taxi cabs to provide us with safe transportation," MacNamara said. "If it is a loophole, we are looking at how it can be changed."
Daniels was charged with weapons in a motor vehicle, carrying a pistol without a permit, altering a serial number on a firearm, criminal possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and operating a motor vehicle without a hands-free device. He was issued a court date of Dec. 30 and held on $100,000 bond.