7 Norwich police officers on leave after fatal shooting

Norwich - Nearly half the police department's second shift - seven officers - is on administrative leave as state police begin their investigation into the death of a man after he allegedly pointed a gun at officers Sunday night and was shot.

Michael Dugas, 52, of 172 Laurel Hill Ave., died at The William W. Backus Hospital Sunday evening. Sunday's shooting is the fourth officer-involved shooting in the city in just over a year.

Police had been called to the neighborhood park in the area of Laurel Hill Avenue and Center Street at 7:18 p.m. for a report of a man with a gun.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found Dugas, who told them he had a gun. Dugas was despondent and refused to follow officers' commands, police said.

Police said they attempted to communicate with him for an unspecified period of time, and that Dugas suddenly drew a handgun from his pocket and pointed it at them.

Several officers fired at the "gun-wielding" man in self-defense, Norwich police said. Dugas was taken to Backus, where he later died.

Neighbors said they heard about 15 shots being fired.

As is routine in any officer-involved shooting, the state police and the New London County State Attorney's Office have taken charge of the investigation.

Norwich Capt. Patrick Daley said the second shift typically has 12 to 16 officers on duty. Daley acknowledged the loss of the officers was "significant" and would require "creative deployment" to cover the staggered shift, which can run from 3 to 11 p.m. or 4 p.m. to midnight.

Daley said residents can be assured that the city will be adequately policed and no outside help will be necessary. He said he would also try to limit overtime costs.

Daley said he could not comment further on the shooting.

Norwich police said they went to the park after someone called and reported a man with a gun but hung up when asked for more details.

Neighbors described Dugas as a kind man with a drinking problem. Dugas has no known criminal record except for a misdemeanor drug conviction in 1999.

"He was a gentle person," said Karen Majeski, who lives across the street from Dugas's home. "Even when he was drinking, he was never violent. He would just cry and talk about his childhood and his (late) wife."

Majeski said Dugas appeared to be haunted by a difficult childhood and the loss of his wife to cancer.

Records show that Dugas married Jane E. McRae on Aug. 26, 2000. An obituary for McRae said she died on Oct. 16, 2003, and was interred in her native Gloucester, United Kingdom.

"He would just start crying about his wife," said Majeski. "He thought he could save her."

Majeski said she didn't believe Dugas was employed but that he did odd jobs for a neighbor.

State police spent much of Monday at the nondescript park that has just a single picnic table and several benches. Dozens of neon green, yellow and orange markers lined the street. Investigators video-recorded the crime scene and took photographs.

State police Sgt. Donna Tadiello said Monday state police are investigating how many officers were at the scene and who fired their weapons. She did not identify the officers placed on leave, which is common protocol, according to Norwich's policy on use of force.

According to the policy, "police officers use only the amount and type of force that is reasonable to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the lives of the officer and others."

Deadly use of force can be used to defend the officer or a third party from death or serious injury and to effect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody a person who is believed to have committed or attempted to commit a felony which involved "the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury."

An officer is not to use a firearms if he/she believes that the subject can be apprehended without the use of deadly physical force.

All reported instances of use of force will be reviewed to determine if any of rules or procedures were violated, the protocol states.

The Sunday shooting was the fourth in the city involving police since Feb. 7, 2012, when Officer Greg McDonald shot a man after several officers responded to a report of a fight outside 89 Oneco St. and a struggle with officers ensued. He has been subsequently cleared of excessive use of force.

On Aug. 28, 2012 Sgt. Patrick Mickens shot a man outside Backus Hospital after the man nearly ran over his own mother and drove his car into the officer and his cruiser. The investigation into that incident is pending.

The most recent incident occurred on Jan. 7 when Officer Jonathan Ley was shot four times by Jason Razzino, 30, during a Cedar Street standoff. Razzino committed suicide after an hours-long standoff with police.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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