Sep. 16-A Navy sailor was assaulted at a pizza restaurant in Berlin over the weekend in an attack that was caught on a video that has since gone viral on online social media.
Sean Nolte Jr., a sailor enlisted at the Naval Submarine School in Groton, was at Central Pizza at 96 Mill St. about 9:45 p.m. Saturday when a woman told him he "disgraces the U.S." and hit him.
In a Facebook post Saturday, Nolte said the woman had been casting looks at him, and since he was in uniform, he politely smiled back at her. "As she leaves, she looks at me and says 'Nice Smile' very sarcastically. I reply 'Thank You, have a nice day ma'am' and continue about my day," he wrote. "Not even 30 seconds later she comes marching back in, and yells at the Pizzeria staff 'He is a fake by the way, my husband is in the Army....'"
He said he showed her his military ID, but she insisted it was fake and showed him her military dependent ID, saying his should look like hers.
"As I realized there was no persuading this woman that I am not a fake, I politely say 'Tell your husband thank you for his service for me, and have a nice day,'" he wrote. "She storms out of the pizzeria, and storms right back in, progressively screaming at me ..." He said she berated him, grabbed his uniform and slapped his face.
His post had more than 1,500 comments and had been shared over 1,500 times as of Wednesday night.
The Berlin Police Department was looking to identify the woman who attacked the sailor and released photos of her in a news release. In a statement released Wednesday morning, police said they received several tips Tuesday that led officers to a probable identification of the woman. They will pursue a warrant for her arrest when they have enough information, according to a statement by acting police Chief Chris Ciuci.
George Bikakis, son of Central Pizza owner Jason Bikakis and part of the family business, said that while he was not an eyewitness, he pulled all the security footage of the incident and reviewed it. He said his father was at the register when the woman came in to pick up her order.
"She stood there and seemed a little out of it. All of a sudden she sees the young man with his uniform and she started questioning him," George Bikakis said. "'Where's your ID,' this and that. The young man, who was a calm, nice kid, gave the ID and she paid for the pizza. She left to drop off the pizza in the car, and then she came back in. My father did a double take, like, 'What's going on here?' Then she went ballistic, and that's where the Facebook video came in."
George Bikakis said his family grew up in the area, and his dad had been there since the 1960s, and "We've never seen something like that before."
"The kid was minding his own business, and all of a sudden the lady started questioning him," he said. "This is based on what I saw in the (surveillance) video, there's no sound, but it seems like she kept drilling him for proper identification."
Doug Capazzi, who served as a medical unit mechanic and combat lifesaver in the U.S. Army from 1998 to 2007, said the woman's behavior toward the sailor was disrespectful.
"No matter what the situation, whether it's a service member or not, if you lay your hands on someone, it's a level of disrespect that's unacceptable," said Capazzi, who lives in Waterford and works with veterans through organizations including the Guardians of the Purple Heart, Veterans Equine Therapeutic Services and Irreverent Warriors.
Capazzi said he was glad to hear that police were seeking the suspect in the assault. He said he would have called the police if he were the victim in such an attack "because that kind of behavior is not OK. You can't be going around smacking people in uniform."
Capazzi, who helps promote mental health for military veterans, said he hopes the sailor turns to his command and comrades for help processing the incident.
"Anyone who experiences something like this, you definitely have to talk to somebody," he said. "The biggest advice we always give is to talk to your buddy, talk to the person standing next to you in formation, they might be the voice of reason and be able to offer some advice and give you direction for if it happens again."
Harry Hansen, department adjutant for the American Legion Department of Connecticut and a veteran of the United States Air Force, said that such an attack on a service member was "rare and shocking."
"It's highly unusual incident, normally service members are welcomed all over the place," Hansen said. "I find it highly shocking that somebody would lash out at somebody in uniform."
A spokesperson for the submarine school declined to provide any further comment since the investigation was still ongoing.