Suspect in Fairfield standoff was supposed to be in jail; judge sets new bond of $2 million

A Fairfield attorney, facing a slew of domestic violence charges, is now being held on $2 million bond after a standoff with Fairfield police that put his neighborhood on edge Wednesday night.
Neil Bhatia, 46, went before a judge Thursday without his shoes—evidence of how police used pepper spray to force Bhatia out of his house and into custody the previous night. Police said they had gone to his home on Mona Terrace to serve Bhatia with an arrest warrant after he was a no-show in court that day. They’d arrested him the day before after a supervised visit with his kids.
“He engaged in a physical argument with the DCF [Department of Children and Families] worker, and he was charged accordingly. His kids being there, he was charged with risk of injury to a minor and disorderly conduct,” Lt. Michael Paris explained.
Paris said Wednesday night Bahtia refused to come with them. Negotiators were brought in but were not successful.
Paris told News 12 during that time, police learned of two other arrest warrants for Bhatia—one for failure to appear in court on a different domestic violence case out of Stamford and one for violation of a protective order out of Weston.
“There were 12 to 15 cop cars here,” said Bruce Florczak, who lives on Mona Terrace.
“They blocked off the front and the back here and some of them had really light-weight assault rifles,” added neighbor Robert Taunt.
At one point, police smelled natural gas. They evacuated the neighborhood as a precaution and had the gas to the house turned off.
“People started panicking thinking he was going to blow the house up,” Florczak recalled.
Police ended up shooting canisters of pepper spray through the home’s windows, which got Bhatia to quickly come out. Police said he was taken into custody without incident.
“Geez, I’ll tell you. I never experienced anything like this. It’s something you’d see on, geez, on TV,” said Florczak.
“It’s normally nice and quiet,” added Taunt, who's lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years.
Neighbors told News 12 Bhatia had only moved onto the block within the past year and no one knew him. Multiple people said they’d never even met Bhatia. A couple called him “not particularly friendly” while Florczak said he’d seen him driving his kids around the neighborhood in a miniature dune buggy.
Court records show Bhatia has been in a prolonged divorce and custody battle for more than five years, during which a protective order was granted.
“Mr. Bhatia has been arrested—I’ve lost count—at least 10 times for domestic-related charges, chiefly violations of this protective order,” attorney Gene Riccio, who represents the victim, told the judge Thursday.
In fact, Bhatia was also due in Stamford Superior Court Wednesday, where he was supposed to be sentenced to 45 days in jail after pleading guilty to two of those protective order violations.
Riccio told the court his client has been traumatized repeatedly by Bhatia and pushed for a high bond.
Bhatia’s attorney asked for leniency, saying he’s never missed court before this week. “He didn’t go in the wind, Your Honor. He was communicating directly with the Weston police, talking through a mental health episode,” said attorney Mark Sherman.
Judge Peter McShane called the whole case “disturbing.” McShane said he was concerned, not just about the standoff—which charges are still forthcoming on—but Bhatia’s history of pending cases. McShane set bond at $1 million for the failure to appear in court on the Fairfield charges and $1 million on the new protective order violation out of Weston.
“We’re very gratified that the courts set substantial bonds in those cases,” Riccio told News 12 after the hearing. “It was totally appropriate for the safety of not only my clients but also the community, so I think everyone is breathing a lot easier as a result of this court hearing.”
“It’s a tragedy. There’s a mental health component here that, while we can’t get into it, is sensitive,” Sherman said following court. “He is not a violent person. He has just been caught up in this system a little too long, and it’s unfortunately come to a head.”
Bhatia is due in Stamford Superior Court Friday regarding his cases there.