Terror at the farmers market

| 08 Jun 2015 | 04:52

By Anya Tikka
— (UPDATED) A lively afternoon at the Milford Farmers Market turned ugly on Sunday, when a car struck several occupied vehicles and veered toward the crowd at the market itself.

No one was hurt, thanks to the quick response of bystanders. But the crowd was traumatized by what it saw.

A man driving up Fourth Street, just outside the market at the Grotto Restaurant, first hit a stop sign, then struck a silver car occupied by out-of-towners, according to a witness, Elizabeth Mallard of Milford. The car then struck an orange car with Mallard and three children inside, including her five-week-old baby. The car kept going, hitting the silver car again, and then advancing up a private front lawn, Mallard said. The car then turned toward the busy market as dozens of people watched in horror.

Some bystanders managed to grab the keys to the errant vehicle by jumping through the open driver’s-side window and hanging onto the door. The driver, Robert Pacella Jr., 45, of Milford, suffered visible facial wounds — the only injuries anyone sustained that day.

Police say driver was drunkPacella and his passenger, Michael Deis, 54, of the Bronx, were arrested at the scene. The Milford police told the Courier that Pacella was drunk. He hit three parked cars in all, police said, and that it looked like he was trying to flee the scene.

Pacella refused to submit to tests for substance abuse, and is charged with suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Deis was arrested for disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. Both were released on their own recognizance pending a future court date. Additional charges are pending.

The Milford police is asking anyone who witnessed the incident to call them at 570-296-7700.

Three men helped stop the car from crashing into the crowd head-on, including Grotto owner Adam Heygood and Charles Willette of Milford.

The third person could not be identified. Witnesses who said they knew him said, speaking anonymously, that he doesn't want to be recognized. He was happy to help and just wanted go home, they said.

'You could have killed many people'

Witnesses told the Courier that the driver and his passenger first denied having done anything wrong. A large, angry crowd soon surrounded the car, shouting, “You did!”

Several bystanders pulled Pacella out of the vehicle and tried to calm him down by walking him off to the side.

As the driver was led away, one woman screamed, “You could have killed many people!” and called him names — sentiments echoed by many other witnesses. Police arrived and, in time, arrested the men. Pacella seemed at first to apologize for what happened. But when the arresting police officer tried to get him and Deis into the police vehicle, both refused. Eventually they got into the police car.

Elizabeth Mallard stood outside her car, holding her five-week-old baby and looking shocked.

According to many witnesses, Pacella had been in the cigar shop across the street before hitting the stop sign and cars.

Dennis and Patricia Mathisen from State College, Pa., were in Milford for a 60th class reunion. They were in the silver car that was struck twice, but said good-humoredly that the incident would not stop them from coming back.

Editor's note: This article has been updated and corrected with regard to the sequence of events. Nathan Mayberg contributed to the reporting of this story.