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Norwich sergeant's shooting of man in moving car found justified

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published June 10. 2013 2:00PM   Updated June 10. 2013 11:57PM

Norwich — New London State’s Attorney Michael L. Regan has found Norwich Police Sgt. Patrick Mickens was justified in shooting a mentally unstable man as the man drove his car at Mickens on Aug. 28, 2012, in the parking lot of The William W. Backus Hospital.

Mickens fired four rounds into a vehicle driven by Gino Jermaine Nicasia after Nicasia backed his car into a police cruiser that was blocking him, made a U-turn and drove toward his mother and Mickens, striking Mickens in the hip. Nicasia was treated for a gunshot wound to the right leg and committed for psychiatric care.

According to a report released Monday by the state Division of Criminal Justice, Regan, state’s attorney for the New London Judicial District, made his finding that Mickens’ “use of deadly force” was justified based on an investigation by the state police Eastern District Major Crime Squad and Supervisory Inspector Philip Fazzino of the state’s attorney’s office.

The investigators interviewed four Norwich police officers who witnessed the incident, three Backus security guards and Nicasia’s mother. Nicasia refused to be interviewed or release his medical records.

According to the report, police were called to the hospital at 5:49 a.m. for a possible domestic incident involving a man who had locked himself in his car. Nicasia’s’ mother told the officers she had brought her son to Backus for a psychiatric evaluation because he was hearing voices.

Asked to roll down his window and speak with the officers, Nicasia responded with a blank stare, according to the report. Eventually, Nicasia started the engine and rolled the window down an inch. Officer Scott Dupointe parked his patrol car behind Nicasia’s car, which was parked front end first in a spot outside the emergency room, facing a traffic island with a concrete light post.

Mickens and Nicasia’s mother were standing near the driver’s side window, trying to convince Nicasia to turn off the car and get out when Nicasia backed into the cruiser, according to the report. Two officers were forced to jump away from the vehicle. Nicasia then drove forward, over a curb, toward Mickens and his mother.

Mickens pushed the mother out of the way as Nicasia accelerated the car rapidly, according to the report. Mickens said he continued to back up as the car came toward him and, believing himself and the others in imminent physical danger, drew his duty weapon and fired one shot at the windshield.

Mickens said car continued to move forward and the front side of the car struck his right side, pinning his right hand between the magazine pouches on his duty belt and the car’s side view mirror. Mickens said the impact caused pouches to be ripped off his belt and dislodged his radio. He said he felt himself falling backward and believed he would be run over. Mickens said he fired what he believed to be three rounds, striking the driver’s side door. The car slowed and rolled across the parking lot, coming to rest against a curb.

Mickens suffered joint pain, a sprained hip and thigh and hip contusion, according to the report. He was placed on administrative duty following the incident and returned to regular duty in February.

Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro, who thanked the state’s attorney’s office for the review, agreed with the decision and said Mickens was forced to use his gun “to protect himself and others.”

“The fact that Sgt. Mickens and this individual’s mother were not injured was a result of appropriate actions taken in a quickly evolving incident,” Fusaro said.

Under state law, a police officer is permitted to use deadly physical force when he “reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.”

In his report, Regan wrote that Mickens “reasonably believed deadly force to be necessary to defend himself and third persons, those being the other individuals in the parking lot, from the use or imminent use of deadly force by Gino Nicasia.”

Regan thanked the major crime squad and Norwich Police for their assistance and said no further action would be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.

k.florin@theday.com

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