Fatal police-involved shootings spike in Connecticut

There have been nearly as many fatal police-involved shootings in Connecticut this month as there were in all of 2019.

While there were four deadly officer-involved shootings last year, there have been three so far in January 2020. In a tweet earlier this week, ACLU of Connecticut Executive Director David McGuire described the recent rash of shootings as “a pandemic in Connecticut.”

In chronological order, here are the seven fatal shootings that have occurred in the last 12 months.

Feb. 20, 2019

Kyron Marcell Sands of Hartford was shot in the stomach during an exchange of gunfire with authorities after they stopped a stolen car on Route 32 in Windham.

Police said they encountered Sands during an interrupted burglary in Norwich, where he stole a car and led police on an extended chase into Windham, causing at least one crash on the way. Sands was accused of firing at officers repeatedly. The chase ended in another bout of gunfire between Sands and officers after the car was stopped on Route 32, state police have said.

The state police investigation into the incident has been completed and was turned over to Middlesex County State’s Attorney Michael A. Gailor for review of the officer’s use of deadly force that day, officials said last summer.

April 20, 2019

Anthony “Chulo” Jose Vega Cruz, 18, was shot twice in the head by Wethersfield police Officer Layau Eulizier Jr. during a traffic stop on the Silas Deane Highway.

The shooting happened at 6 p.m. after police attempted to pull Cruz over because his license plates didn’t match the car he was driving. Police said Cruz drove away when he was pulled over and when officers stopped him a second time he drove at the officers. State police said they are investigating whether the car was stolen.

Vega was on life support for two days before he died.

It was later revealed that Wethersfield officials reviewed work records Eulizier prior to hiring him that cited his poor performance under stress and tactical mistakes during traffic stops when he was a Manchester police officer. Eulizier was also among the officers who shot and killed a Hartford man during a dangerous standoff in 2015.

The shooting remains under investigation by Hartford State’s Attorney Gail P. Hardy.

July 9, 2019

Alphonso Zaporta, 41, had led officers on a brief pursuit through Hartford around 9 p.m. July 26 when the chase suddenly came to a stop on the I-84 on-ramp at Capitol Avenue, blocked in by standstill traffic on the highway.

He appeared to attack the officers when they approached his car, leading to a frantic hand-to-hand struggle at the driver-side door of Zaporta’s car. A passenger in the car quickly surrendered.

Body camera footage of the incident showed a Hartford police officer yelling, “He’s got my gun,” seconds before Zaporta was fatally shot.

Earlier this month, Tolland State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky concluded that Det. Zack Sherry reasonably believed his own life and those of his colleagues were in danger when he fired three shots that struck Zaporta.

“In the mere seconds that this incident unfolded, Detective Sherry’s fears were entirely reasonable considering Mr. Zaporta’s actions to that point,” Gedansky wrote. “Hesitating could have been, and would likely have been, a fatal mistake for Detective Sherry.”

Sept. 3, 2019

John Carras, a school psychologist, died after East Hartford police shot him during an altercation that followed a “panicked 911 call” about a serious domestic violence incident. Police say Carras was assaulting a woman when officers arrived and was shot during a struggle with two police officers. The investigation into the police-involved shooting now lies with the Windham State’s Attorney’s Office and state police.

Jan. 2, 2020

The new year had barely gotten underway when Ansonia police fatally shot Michael Gregory, a 30-year-old town resident. The shooting happened when officers were dispatched to investigate a woman’s complaint that her boyfriend was in her home at 81 Myrtle Ave. despite a protective order.

Ansonia police said officers entered the house and were confronted by a man — later identified as Gregory — wielding a knife. They tried to verbally de-escalate the situation, but the man retreated further into the house, police said.

“The male then ran toward officers with the knife in hand. Officers made every attempt to create distance between themselves and the unwanted male subject,” Chief Andrew Cota said.

As Gregory approached, an officer fired at him at least once, Cota said. Gregory was taken to Griffin Hospital in Derby, where he later died from his wounds.

Troopers released the names of the three Ansonia police officers who were involved in the incident: Sgt. Christopher Flynn, and Officers Brendon Nelson and Wojciech Podgorski.

Jan. 15, 2020

New Haven resident Mubarak Soulemane, 19, was shot Jan. 15 after he displayed a knife, state police said. He was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital, where he died.

State police released body camera footage on Jan. 17 that shows a trooper fire multiple shots, killing the teenager behind the wheel of a stolen car in West Haven after a lengthy high-speed chase.

Following the shooting, the Connecticut State Police Union asked the Connecticut ACLU to apologize for “false allegations” that one of the troopers involved in the incident used a racial slur.

In a social media post, the ACLU of Connecticut claimed that one of the officers involved “was recorded calling [Soulemane] a racial slur” and reiterated the demand that the state should “assign a different police agency to investigate.”

The Division of Criminal Justice also announced Saturday that it would assume control of the investigation into the shooting from state police.

Jan. 20, 2020

Most recently, the state police Central District Major Crime Squad is investigating a fatal shooting involving a Waterbury police officer. Edward Gendron, 57, of Waterbury, was killed when he was shot by Waterbury Officer Ronald W. Tompkins III, a 30-year veteran of the city’s police department, state police said Tuesday.

Officers were called to a duplex home at 81 Craigie Ave. Monday afternoon for a welfare check. The officer, later identified as Tompkins, was met by a resident of the home and a gun was displayed, state police said.

Waterbury police Chief Fernando Spagnolo said that they were called when a bullet was found in a wall that separated the two homes in the duplex.

An altercation occurred between the resident, identified as Gendron, and Tompkins. Tompkins fired his handgun, according to state police.

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