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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Police officer identified, video released in fatal Colchester shooting

    A screenshot of body camera footage from Colchester Police Officer Kiruluss Wassef shows Colchester Police Officer John Zavalick pull a knife from a basement door at the home of Jared Billard on April 18, 2024. (Video courtesy of state Office of the Inspector General)

    Colchester ― Jared Billard, the 33-year-old who died after being shot in the chest by a Colchester police officer last Thursday, pointed a shotgun at one of the two officers who were trying to coax him out of his basement apartment, newly released videos show.

    The Office of the Inspector General on Wednesday, in its preliminary report, released police body camera footage and identified the officer who shot and killed Billard as Colchester Police Officer Kiruluss Wassef.

    The video footage, which is unedited and graphic, comes from body worn cameras from Officer Wassef and Officer John Zavalick. The two videos can be viewed by clicking on the two links in the report.

    Wassef and Zavalick, with fellow officer Bryan Kowalski, had responded at 6:17 p.m. on April 18 to Billard’s multi-family home at 759 Norwich Ave. for reports of a disturbance. One of Billard’s tenants said Billard had been acting erratically since earlier that afternoon and at one point became confrontational, pushing him and displaying throwing knives, the inspector general’s report said.

    Officers Wassef and Zavalick entered the basement, while a tenant tells police, “Be ready because he’s got PTSD. He’ll probably attack. Get your Taser ready, man,” the video shows.

    “Jared. Police Department. How you doing, man?” one officer says as he enters the apartment, pulling a knife out of a basement door.

    Billard is behind a closed door, warning officers, “Do not enter my dwelling place.”

    “We need to investigate what’s going on,” Zavalick tells Billard.

    “You need to investigate the (expletive) off,” Billard responds. “Get out of my property.”

    Billard yells at the officers to leave and at one point can be heard racking what the inspector general’s office said was a pump action shotgun and yelling, “Go, go (expletive) now (expletive). Do not tempt me.”

    Police draw their guns. Zavalick moves away from the door and Wassef moves to over behind the concrete foundation, at the foot of the steps leading into the basement.

    “Drop that gun, man,” one officer tells Billard, who is still behind a closed door.

    “Here we go, this is you, this ain’t me,” Billard can be heard saying before he opens the door and can be seen pointing the shotgun in Wassef’s direction.

    Wassef, who was positioned at the bottom of the basement stairs with his gun drawn and Billard’s alleged target, fires one shot.

    Billard was taken to Backus Hospital in Norwich and died from what the Officer of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled was a gunshot wound with a lung injury. Toxicology reports are pending.

    Thursday’s fatal shooting was the third police-involved shooting of the year to be investigated by the inspector general’s office. Other police shootings occurred in Hartford and Bridgeport, the latter ending with a fatality.

    The Office of Inspector General was created as part of the Police Accountability Act passed by the General Assembly in 2020 and investigates use of deadly force and in-custody deaths.

    Two local police shootings remain under investigation in New London County ― the Nov. 26 , 2023, shooting of Christopher Nolan by New London police and the fatal Dec. 21, 2023, fatal shooting of Vaughn Malloy by state police in Stonington.

    A more comprehensive report on the Colchester shooting and determination on whether the use of force was justified will come at a later date.

    State police declined to provide any information about the Colchester police officers, deferring all questions to the inspector general’s office.

    Billard served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry at Fort Campbell, Ky., attended Manchester and Middlesex community colleges and later worked as a security officer at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, according to his LinkedIn profile.

    Mary Forrester, director of marketing at Loomis Chaffee, said Billard had not worked at the school in at least three years but she remembers Billard as a valued member of the school community and a friendly guy.

    “We were saddened and horrified to hear the news,” Forrester said. “We send condolences to friends and family.”

    g.smith@theday.com

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