Colchester man shot dead by police was troubled but had 'huge heart'

While the Colchester man shot dead by police in San Diego over the weekend was well known to law enforcement officials here in Connecticut, friends and family described Kyle Zahacefski as a good person who made a positive impact on those around him.

Brian Scacciaferro of Niantic said he'd known Zahacefski, 24, for about eight years, describing him as always having a smile on his face and ready to "give you the shirt off his back, even if he hated you."

In a brief interview, Zahacefski's brother, Taylor Zahacefski, described his brother as a friendly young man "everyone will have kind things to say about."

Zahacefski's family declined to comment further.

Scacciaferro said he last had contact with Zahacefski on Thanksgiving, when the two exchanged holiday greetings. Scacciaferro said he was unaware of whether Zahacefski had any friends or family in San Diego, but said "he went there because he wanted to escape for a little while."

"The kid had some issues but he had a huge heart," Scacciaferro said. "He was a one-of-a-kind person and what happened to him was terrible. He needed help and I wish I could have done more for him."

According to San Diego police, officers were alerted to Zahacefski when a city resident around 6 a.m. Sunday reported a man trying to break into their house. The caller told police the man had banged on their front door demanding a knife so he could kill himself.

Police said they located Zahacefski in the yard of a nearby residence and he began lobbing bricks at them. Police said Zahacefski then broke into the residence by smashing a glass door.

Officers followed Zahacefski into the residence and found him in the kitchen with a knife pointed at his throat, according to police. When officers ordered him to drop it, police said, he pointed the knife in their direction and “quickly walked” toward them.

At that point, one officer, a 15-year veteran of the department, fired several rounds from his AR-15 rifle. Police said at least one round from the AR-15 hit Zahacefski, who collapsed to the floor.

Officers administered first aid, but Zahacefski was pronounced dead at the scene. Police later learned Zahacefski had arrived in San Diego by bus on Saturday. They couldn't determine why he was there.

The case remains under investigation.

Zahacefski spent the years leading up to his death in and out of Connecticut correctional facilities.

His first known run-in with the law came in 2009, when Zahacefski, 16 at the time, sawed off his hunting shotgun, built an illegal bomb out of fireworks and hatched a plan to "kill everyone" at Norwich Technical High School.

Tried as an adult in the case, Zahacefski received a 10-year prison sentence, fully suspended, with five years' probation. He was released from custody in August 2010 after spending eight months at a state psychiatric facility and two months in prison.

In February 2012, Zahacefski was arrested again, charged with third-degree assault. A month later, he was charged with violation of probation because of the incident. He later would be convicted on both counts.

While those two cases were pending, Zahacefski, out on bond, went missing. Police at the time described him as having a history of suicidal ideation and said he was without his medications.

Zahacefski was rearrested in December 2013 and remained in state custody until his most recent release date. State Department of Correction officials couldn't immediately say when that was. The state judicial website says only that Zahacefski's special parole was to last through June 2023.

b.kail@theday.com

l.boyle@theday.com

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