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Men posing as police officers bound and killed teen girl during broad daylight home invasion robbery: Cops

Carlos Frank-Nieves (Hartford Police Dept.) and the Maple Avenue apartment he and two others allegedly attempted to rob (WTIC screenshot)

Carlos Frank-Nieves (Hartford Police Dept.) and the Maple Avenue apartment he and two others allegedly attempted to rob (WTIC screenshot)

A 17-year-old high school student in Connecticut has died several days after three armed men broke into her house, tied her up, and shot her multiple times during an audacious home invasion that police say took place in broad daylight.

Of the three suspects, one was able to escape and is currently on the lam, another was fatally wounded in a gunfight with someone in the home, and the final alleged assailant was wounded and now faces 11 criminal charges, including one count of murder in the death of young Alondra Vega-Martinez, authorities confirmed to Law&Crime.

Carlos Frank-Nieves, the 33-year-old suspect who was shot and survived, was also charged with one count each of home invasion, conspiracy to commit home invasion, criminal attempt to commit murder, criminal possession of a firearm, and impersonating an officer, as well as three counts of unlawful restraint and two counts of risking injury to a minor.

The deceased suspect was identified as 25-year-old Joseph Vargas-Mercado. Frank-Nieves, Vargas-Mercado, and the third suspect are all from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, police said.

Patrol officers with the Hartford Police Department at about 3:36 p.m. on Saturday, July 15 responded to a 911 call regarding a female being shot at an apartment complex located in the 500 block of Maple Avenue, police said in a press release.

However, while the officers were en route to the address, they came across a vehicle that had crashed at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Benton Street. An adult male passenger in that vehicle was found suffering from what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds. The man with the gunshot wounds — who is believed to be one of the residents of the Maple Avenue apartment — was immediately transported to Hartford Hospital where he was admitted in critical but stable condition. He was later identified as 35-year-old Christian Rivera.

At the same time, first responders to the Maple Avenue address located a 17-year-old female — later identified as Alondra — inside of the apartment suffering from what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds. Emergency Medical Services personnel transported her to CT Children’s Medical Center where she was admitted and listed in critical condition. Unfortunately, she succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead on Tuesday.

Moments after getting Alondra medical care, officers were dispatched to an area in the 100 block of Wethersfield Avenue on a report of two adult males, both suffering from gunshot wounds, being dropped off in the area. Officers located the males and both of them were taken into custody and transported to Hartford Hospital. One of the males — later identified as Frank-Nieves — was admitted and listed in critical condition. The other — later identified as Vargas-Mercado — was pronounced dead upon arriving at the hospital.

According to police, evidence indicated that the entire incident took place inside the Maple Avenue apartment as a result of an attempted home invasion robbery, and all of the alleged shooting is believed to have been exchanged between the suspected robbers and an armed resident of the Maple Avenue apartment.

Police said investigators with the department’s Major Crimes and Crime Scene Divisions developed probable cause to charge Frank-Nieves. A Hartford Superior Court judge approved an arrest warrant for Frank-Nieves in connection with his role in the incident. Following his release from the hospital on Monday, Frank-Nieves was taken into custody and is being kept at the Hartford Police Detention Division on a $3 million bond.

Investigators obtained a search warrant for the apartment and recovered a firearm “with an obliterated serial number,” a large amount of cash, and a cash counting machine, per the release.

The third suspect in the attempted robbery was able to evade police and currently remains at large. Authorities have not released the suspect’s name or a description.

Additional details about the robbery were divulged during Frank-Nieves’ appearance in Hartford’s state Superior Court on Tuesday before Judge David Gold. Deputy Assistant State’s Attorney Jesse Gidding said Frank-Nieves, Vargas-Mercado, and the third suspect were armed with guns, zip ties, and duct tape when they arrived at the Maple Avenue apartment posing as police officers, according to a report from the New Haven Register.

“They attempted to present themselves as police officers to gain entry into the home,” Giddings said during the proceeding.

A spokesperson for the police department reportedly told the Hartford Courant that investigators are uncertain as to whether the suspects and the victims knew each other, but confirmed that it was “a targeted attack.” The spokesperson also said that Alondra was an innocent bystander who just happened to be home when the armed intruders forced their way into the home. She was reportedly bound with the zip ties when she was fatally shot.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.