After a week of searching for a Cambridge man who dragged and injured a state trooper with his truck, state police remain confident that they’ll corner Abel Jimenez.
“People are optimistic that we’re eventually going to catch him,” said Capt. Jack McCarthy on Friday, speaking in front of the state police command post at the Easton Volunteer Fire Department on Route 40.
The Fire Department has become the base of operations for a search that includes the state police, state forest rangers, Department of Environmental Conservation personnel, Washington County sherriff’s deputies, Greenwich and Cambridge police, Vermont state police and Customs and Border Patrol officers. The combined presence of these forces can be felt immediately, with 40 to 50 cars and two official RVs stationed next to the Fire Department at any given time.
According to McCarthy, the search has taken on a shared sense of purpose, with all of the officials involved feeling a kinship toward the injured trooper.
“People from all agencies want to see [Jimenez] caught,” said McCarthy.
Jimenez, who is in this country illegally, is accused of dragging Trooper Joseph P. Smith with his pickup truck around 10 p.m. Aug. 20 following a domestic incident in Washington County. Smith responded to the call about the incident and was attempting to stop Jimenez from leaving the scene when he was dragged, police said. He was taken to Albany Medical Center Hospital that night with head, neck and leg injuries and was released from the hospital on Tuesday.
The search for Jimenez involves traversing difficult terrain that includes cornfields, thick woods and undergrowth. “Some areas are tough to search,” said McCarthy, who confirmed that they were utilizing people trained for this type of search.
The hunt, though, revolves primarily around fresh intelligence, which includes tips the state police have received from people who have reported unusual occurrences or possible sightings. These tips are encouraged by the state police, with McCarthy suggesting that “even a little thing could be what solves this.”
For now, the standard operating procedure is a briefing at the Fire Department and then assigning officers on missions based on the latest intelligence. The assignments can range from two-man teams searching a railroad station to large groups going through cornfields.
Early in the search, state troopers came to the house of Easton resident Peggy Gillio in the middle of the night. “They were very polite,” said Gillio, whose adjacent antique store was also searched by the state police.
“Listening to sounds of helicopters and planes over our little hamlet is very different for us,” said Gillio.
McCarthy is cognizant of his task force’s presence being felt in the tiny community but says he’s appreciative of the welcome they’ve received.
“[The] community has been incredibly generous,” said McCarthy. “Local community members have shown up with trays of food.”
For Gillio, the hunt has inspired her to begin locking her doors and the windows on the lower floor of her house, which she has never done before. Practices such as these, including the removal of keys from any vehicles, are recommended by the state police.