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The family of 52-year-old Michael Dugas, who was fatally shot by Norwich police after calling them to a neighborhood park on Feb. 24, 2013, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and seven police officers involved in the shooting.
The lawsuit was brought by Dugas' sister, April Carfi of Waterford, who is the administrator of his estate. Attorney Robert I. Reardon Jr. said Carfi and other relatives have waited more than a year for information about the shooting.
"The family is frustrated by this," Reardon said. "They have a number of witnesses who told them that their family member did nothing wrong and was shot."
The complaint, filed in New London Superior Court, says the police used unreasonable, unjustified and excessive deadly force against Dugas. It alleges wrongful death due to negligence, recklessness and wanton misconduct and claims that Dugas "suffered extreme emotional distress and horrible, excruciating mental and physical pain before he died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, abdomen, hip and thigh."
The shooting occurred in a small park at Laurel Hill Avenue and Center Street. According to Reardon, Dugas had been watching NASCAR with friends that afternoon and drinking beer. He then called police in the presence of the friends to report there was a man with a gun in the park, which was a few hundreds yards away from his home at 172 Laurel Hill Ave. Dugas had told people that day that he was missing his wife, who died of cancer in 2003.
The police said they attempted to communicate with Dugas for a period of time when he suddenly drew a handgun from his pocket and pointed it at them. The officers fired 41 shots, striking him six times, in the chest, abdomen, hip and thigh. State Police told the family after the shooting that they had recovered an inoperable pellet gun at the scene.
The state police Eastern District Major Crime Squad conducted an investigation and turned over the results to New London State's Attorney Michael L. Regan, who will determine whether the shooting was justified under state law. Regan said Monday that he is reviewing the results and preparing his report. He could not give an estimated date of completion.
The seven officers involved in the shooting, Mark Dean, Kyle Besse, Greg McDonald, Scott Meikle, Anthony Marceau, Richard Cannata and Chase Chiangi, were placed on administrative leave during the initial investigation. All returned to full duty within a few weeks at the direction of the State's Attorney's office.
In addition to the officers, the complaint also names the City of Norwich, Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Sr. and Sgt. James Veiga, the department's training officer. Reardon said the lawsuit was initially filed in state Superior Court, briefly removed to federal court by the defendants, then brought back to state court after the plaintiffs removed one of the counts.
Fusaro said he could not comment on pending litigation. The attorney representing the city and police, Jeffrey Williams, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reardon would not say how much money Dugas' survivors are seeking. Dugas, who had worked at Electric Boat, was unemployed at the time of his death, having been disabled from a work injury, according to Reardon. He said a number of people contacted his office after Dugas' death to say Dugas was a good neighbor.
Dugas had remained troubled by his wife's death and was severely depressed, Reardon said. On the day of his death, he had told the family he was going to the Norwich marina, where his wife's ashes had been scattered, to be with her.
The complaint alleges, in part, that the police failed to train and designate an officer to "talk down" Dugas and failed to use a taser, stun gun and other non-lethal weapons, such as rubber bullets and pepper spray.
"This was a very unfortunate outcome that we think could have been avoided," Reardon said.
The complaint also alleges the department allowed officers "who were known to be frustrated, angry and traumatized" by the Jan. 7, 2013, shooting of fellow officer Jonathan Ley to respond to an emergency call involving a suicidal man. Ley had been shot four times by Jason Razzino, 30, who committed suicide during the hours-long standoff. Ley underwent multiple surgeries and returned to duty in the fall of 2013.