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Woman Honored for Coming to Aid of Westport Police

EASTON, Conn. – Easton resident Marica Dacey might be the poster child for a young woman who grew up in the post-9/11 world. “I was in the seventh grade when 9/11 happened, and I am 22 years old now. A better part of my life I have heard, 'If you see something, say something,' and that is just what I did.”

But to many, Dacey and co-worker Erin Meaney did more than just say something. They were responsible for the capture of murder suspect Thomas Gardner earlier this month.

Gardner, of New Bedford, Mass., was arrested in Westport on Nov. 9 outside a shopping plaza where Dacey works after a five-hour manhunt. Gardner is a suspect in the murder of 36-year-old Michael Duarte in his hometown.

Throughout that fateful November day, Dacey said co-workers and neighboring businesses were getting updates about Gardner's possible whereabouts. A postal service worker went into Splash of Pink, where Dacey works, and asked why the women were still open given the dangerous situation.

At that moment, Dacey said she went online and looked up the suspect's picture. “I knew the mug shot , I knew what he looked like and I knew what he was wearing. We were all kind of on the lookout, but we also heard a lot of rumor of where he was.”

The furthest thing from her mind, Dacey said, was that Gardner would be anywhere near the store in the Playhouse Square Shopping Center. “At that time we heard he was spotted near the train station so we felt that we were OK. It wasn’t until Erin went out to make a phone call and I went to lock the doors when we spotted him,” she said.

Gardner was pacing back in forth near the Post Road storefront, limping with his hands in his pockets. “He just walked right by us,” she said.

“I was pretty frantic but all of a sudden the protector in me kicked in,” Dacey said.

Dacey quickly locked the front doors as Meaney called police. Hiding behind a wall inside the store, Dacey told Meaney exactly what Gardner was doing, as Meaney relayed information to police. Soon after the phone call to police, Gardner was taken down and placed in police custody.

Both women received certificates of appreciate from Westport police for their role in the Gardner's capture.

Looking back on her experience, Dacey says what did wasn’t heroic, it was what she hoped anyone else would do in that situation. “I was just being an informed person. You never know what could have happened if we didn’t say anything, we just thought it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“Honestly, I think it’s great that we got an award, but that is not why we did it. I really hope this rings a bell in someone’s head, I hope this makes an impression on someone, so if this were to happen again, it makes someone else speak up.”

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