Windham State's Attorney says Norwich officer justified in using deadly force in 2017 manhunt incident

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The State's Attorney for Windham County has found that a Norwich police officer was justified in using deadly force against a man who prompted a massive manhunt in October 2017, shutting down much of the Greeneville section of Norwich.

A report released Friday on the death of 25-year-old Brandon Uzialko by State's Attorney Anne F. Mahoney found the "deadly physical force" used by Officer Damien Martin was not the "proximate cause" of Uzialko's death. The state's attorney's office investigated the incident because an officer was involved.

"Brandon Uzialko did not die as a result of the use of deadly physical force by Norwich Police Officer Damien Martin. The actions of Officer Martin given the circumstances were appropriate, his conduct admirable," Mahoney said in the report.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled in December 2017 that Uzialko died by suicide and that the cause was a gunshot wound to the head.

On Oct. 21, 2017, Norwich police were dispatched to the home of Uzialko's ex-girlfriend, Sonia Fowler, for a report of a stabbing. Their investigation determined Uzialko was accused of breaking into her home and stabbing her new boyfriend, Carlos Gayle, 10 times, causing serious physical injuries.

As a result, Norwich police were on the hunt for Uzialko.

At 5 p.m. on Oct. 24, patrol officers were assigned to conduct surveillance to locate Uzialko. He was reported to be seen at the Square Package Store, 288 Broad St., at 6:30 p.m. Officers viewed a surveillance video from the package store, and identified a man seen on the video as Uzialko. They relayed a description of Uzialko, who was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and carrying a black colored backpack, to all other officers.

Officer Martin, who heard the description, called dispatch after completing an investigation into a motor vehicle crash on Boswell Avenue to find out where he was needed next. He learned a Norwich Police K-9 team was tracking Uzialko from the package store in the direction of Baltic Street, and headed toward the sighting area, the report says.

Martin was traveling south on Boswell Avenue when he saw a person matching the description of Uzialko. He radioed dispatch to let them. He drove his police cruiser behind Uzialko, activated the overhead emergency lights, and got out of his cruiser.

Uzialko was facing the opposite direction about eight to 10 feet away from Martin, who "demanded a show of hands," at which point Uzialko turned toward him and fired, the report says. Martin returned fire, apparently striking Uzialko's upper back shoulder, the report says.

Uzialko fled on foot and Martin ran after him. Uzialko disappeared into the backyards of neighboring homes then ran north on Boswell Avenue toward 12th Street. Martin requested additional officers to set up a perimeter to find Uzialko.

Norwich police Sgt. Anthony Gomes drove to 14th and Prospect streets to set up a perimeter. When Gomes got out of his car, he heard a single gunshot, the report says. He notified dispatch of the shots fired about six minutes after Martin had called to inform them of the same.

At 10:40 p.m., Norwich Officer Zachary Barber saw Uzialko "slumped over, motionless" on the front walkway of a home at 318 Prospect St., the report says. He and a member of the State Police SWAT team approached Uzialko, demanding that he show his hands. Barber found a black, 9mm pistol about a foot from Uzialko, and saw that he had a wound to the head.

A medic from the SWAT team checked Uzialko and found no pulse or other signs of life. He was later pronounced dead on scene. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed an autopsy, which found Uzialko died by suicide and that the cause was a gunshot wound to the head. He also sustained a penetrating wound to his left chest. Toxicology results did not detect any drugs or alcohol in his blood.

The 9mm pistol found near his body was later tested and found to be operable. The pistol matched the type of "weapon gun box" found amongst Uzialko's possessions at his home, the report says.

j.bergman@theday.com

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