A man who used his recovery from opioid addiction to inspire others has been shot dead in a confrontation outside a bar in Groton. Joey Gingerella, who was 24, was apparently intervening after he saw a man assaulting a woman in the parking lot of Ryan’s Pub.
Gingerella had been addicted to oxycodone, but was helped by his mother and stepfather to get successfully into recovery.
His parents, Tammy and Joe de la Cruz, then founded the nonprofit Community Speaks Out to help other families struggling with addiction. Joey Gingerella had spoken about his experiences at local high school events.
Lisa Cote Johns, who lost her own son to heroin addiction, is a cofounder of Community Speaks Out and a close friend of the de la Cruz’s. "I loved him so much," she said. "He was a sweetheart. We're all broken. But he's a hero."
Senator Richard Blumenthal said his thoughts are with Gingerella's parents. "Words cannot express the sense of grief and tragedy that we feel at this moment for them," he said. "They have been leaders in Community Speaks Out. They were so helpful in helping to formulate the strategy at the national level that we have now adopted."
Meanwhile, Second District Representative Joe Courtney said Gingerella was proof that recovery from addiction is possible. "It hurts," he told WNPR, "because that family, but particularly Joey has been this pretty fearless spokesman for the epidemic that has hit Connecticut and the country hard. And by all accounts he was again doing something to help another person, and that really is at the essence of the kind of person he was."
His stepfather, Joe de la Cruz, was elected last month as a state representative for Groton.
Police said they’re seeking a 30-year-old Groton man as a suspect in the shooting.