PROVINCETOWN — Police Sgt. Kevan Spoor and Patrol Officer Michael McCauley went searching for a wanted man — Richard Neal II, 35, of Montana — on the morning of May 5 and found him at 7:45, waiting patiently outside MacMillan Pier’s former Whydah Museum.
“What happened last night?” asked Spoor, per his police report.
“Oh,” Neal responded. “The guy with the knife?”
The “guy with the knife” was Chad Cenotti, 32, of Provincetown. An alleyway brawl the night before involving Neal; Robert Capaldo, 26, of New Jersey; cocaine; a box cutter; and two pairs of cowboy boots had sent Cenotti to Cape Cod Hospital, where he lay with hematomas blooming and several fewer teeth than he had before the fight.
The scuffle sent Neal and Capaldo down Cape as well — to Orleans District Court, where Judge Robert Welsh III arraigned them Wednesday as co-defendants: Capaldo on felony charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, strangulation, and armed robbery; Neal on assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, strangulation, attaching the wrong plates to a motor vehicle to conceal identity, and driving an unregistered motor vehicle.
Neal’s and Capaldo’s misadventure began Tuesday, May 4. Just past 11 p.m., a flurry of calls alerted Provincetown dispatch to an assault underway by Commercial Street’s Lotus Guest House. Eyewitnesses at the scene — Darin Janoplis, a neighbor, and Latez Atanasov, a passerby — told Spoor and McCauley that two white men had attacked Cenotti.
Cenotti was, wrote Spoor, “slumped” in the guest house’s alley. Blood pooled from his mouth; cuts dotted his head; his neck was bruised; his left ear started to swell. He “had no idea” why he’d been attacked, he said in Spoor’s report. He’d eaten alone that night at the Governor Bradford, where he’d noticed Atanasov and the two attackers: one brown-haired (Neal), one ginger-bearded (Capaldo). The bar closed, Cenotti said, and the four men went outside. He and Atanasov spoke. Neal and Capaldo relieved themselves on the Post Office Café’s fence.
In a flash, Cenotti said, Neal and Capaldo were “on top of” him. He brandished a box cutter, but they tackled, choked him, and cowboy-boot kicked him. He told police that in his pockets he was carrying $2,000 cash and the box cutter. His attackers, he said, left the cash, took the box cutter, and fled.
Spoor and McCauley sent Cenotti off in an ambulance, then set out on the manhunt.
Atanasov had told McCauley that Neal was in town for a diving job at the end of MacMillan Pier. That’s where the officers found not Neal but Capaldo, brushing his teeth behind a white Ford-150. He was cowboy-booted, bruised, and bloodied, and would answer no questions — about Neal’s whereabouts, about what had happened, about why the plates on his unregistered F-150 in fact belonged on a yellow Ford Mustang — without a lawyer present. Officers found a blue box cutter in his back pocket. They later confirmed he’d stolen it from Cenotti.
In the end, the officers didn’t need Capaldo’s answers. Six hours after his arrest, they found Neal in precisely the same spot, wearing a near-identical pair of thick-soled cowboy boots. He proved less tight-lipped than his co-defendant. Cenotti, he said, had tried to sell them cocaine, and Capaldo had “told him to go away.” In response, Neal said, Cenotti pulled a knife. So, they fought.
Why, asked Spoor, did they choose “to fight a guy with a knife?”
Neal had no answer. As for his truck’s fraudulent plates? He’d just “put the wrong ones on.”
He joined Capaldo in custody and the courtroom. Each man posted $2,500 cash bail to secure their release before June 28 pretrial hearings.
For now, the state has filed no charges against either Atanasov or Cenotti, who’s a familiar face at Orleans District Court. Since 1988, he’s appeared there for 12 now-closed cases, among them, one for assault and battery, two involving larceny schemes, and once for shoplifting by asportation.
Editor’s note: Because of an error in a police report, an earlier version of this article misspelled Darin Janoplis’s name. That version of the article also reported that Janoplis had “told Spoor he’d seen Atanasov take part in the assault.” In fact, Sgt. Spoor wrote that Atanasov “was involved in the altercation in some way.” The Independent regrets these errors.