Vargas: Pastor attempts to prevent arrest of domestic violence suspect

By Joe Vargas

The decisions officers make from day to day are often called into question by a public whose understanding of policing is often distorted by Hollywood myth.

The latest case of this occurred on January 23, 2018, when officers of the East Haven Police Department in Connecticut were investigating an occurrence of domestic violence. A woman had been seriously beaten by her 32-year-old son.

Officers received a tip the son was hiding in the Old Stone Church in town. Church employees allowed the officers inside to search for the suspect. The man, Ryan Champlin, was in the church and was arrested for domestic violence.

Everything was going well until Rev. Care Goodstal-Spinks blocked the officers’ vehicles from leaving. She confronted an officer and sergeant who attempted to explain the circumstances, including that Champlin had committed a violent assault.

Goodstal-Spinks was convinced the officers could not enter the church due to the sanctuary status of the church protected by state and federal law. She demanded that Champlin be released to her. The problem is, no such laws have existed since the 1600s.

The sergeant called for a lieutenant, who attempted to reason with the irate pastor. After about 10 minutes, the officers left with their prisoner and a still-irate Goodstal-Spinks.

Practicing the patience of Job, the East Haven lieutenant spent nearly 10 minutes trying to explain the circumstances with no success. Eventually, the officers left. Unwilling to let the incident go, Goodstal-Spinks notified the media of the great injustice she believed had been committed.

After local media responded, the department decided to release the redacted video on its Facebook page to offset the public’s concerns.

In reaction to the video and the public uproar it has created, Goodstall-Spinks resigned. The Old Stone Church leadership announced her resignation on its Facebook page, stating, “The behavior and language on video by the Intentional Interim Pastor, do not necessarily express the opinions of the wider congregation. We have accepted a letter of resignation from the interim pastor -effective immediately.”

This is just another lesson that just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is.


Lieutenant Joseph Murgo speaking with Pastor Goodstal-Spinks.EAST HAVEN, CT (01/23/2018): The East Haven Police Department was dispatched to a home after being notified by East Haven Fire Department Personnel that they were on scene of a serious domestic violence assault. Upon officer’s arrival, it was determined that a 59 year old female had just been assaulted by her son later identified as Ryan Champlin, (D.O.B. 07/20/1983) who then fled the residence. The victim advised officers on scene that she got into an argument with her son because he does not pay to live with them at their residence. The victim advised officers that while she was being assaulted by her son, she attempted to call 911, but was unable to do so because Champlin pushed her to the ground. The victim advised officers that she was able to run into her bedroom and lock the door, but Champlin forced his way into her locked bedroom by kicking it open, grabbed the cordless phone from her and struck her in the back of the head with it several times, breaking the phone. He then fled the residence. After speaking with officers, the victim was transported to the hospital with serious but non- life-threatening injuries. After leaving the victim’s residence, a search for Champlin ensued. While searching for him, officers received a tip that Champlin had been dropped off at the Old Stone Church, 251 Main Street, East Haven, CT. Officers made contact with church employees who were not sure if Champlin was inside, but invited them in to look for him. A search of the church and attached day care resulted in finding Champlin hiding in an upstairs office. Champlin was taken into custody without further incident. While on scene at the Old Stone Church, and with Champlin already in custody, a pastor arrived and blocked in the police cruiser that Champlin was in and demanded that officers release him to her custody. She advised officers that they had no right to arrest him within the interior of the church, even if it was for felony domestic violence charges. Officers advised her that Champlin was wanted for violent felony domestic violence charges and could not be released at that time. The pastor, who was extremely irate, proceeded to attempt to get in front of the police cruiser when an officer attempted to drive away with Champlin, but was stopped from doing so by another officer on scene. During this, officers exercised excellent discretion and de-escalated the situation. It should be noted that the Old Stone Church runs a day care called the Old Stone Playschool out of the same building as the church. When Champlin entered the church, he had access to the entire interior of the church, including the day care area which, at the time appeared to only be occupied by teachers. We do not believe Champlin came in contact with any children. While the East Haven Police Department respects the sanctity of a church, we also owe it to victims of domestic violence to apprehend suspects who commit violent felony assaults. Officers were also cognizant of the fact that children attending day care might have been exposed to a fleeing felony suspect within the interior of the church. We feel that the decision to enter the church was the correct one in this particular situation. Champlin was transported to the East Haven Police Department where he was processed. Champlin was charged with Assault in the Second Degree, Interfering with an Emergency Call, Disorderly Conduct, and Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree. He is being held on a $25,000.00 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on 01/24/2018 at G.A. 23, 121 Elm Street, New Haven, CT.

Posted by East Haven Police Department on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at