Statement of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New London Concerning the Death of Michael Goodale on September 20, 2016, in the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
The following is a statement concerning the tragic death of Michael Goodale on September 20, 2016. I wish to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Goodale.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at approximately 11 :30 a.m., the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Police (MPTP) reported an officer involved shooting at the Fox Tower parking garage to the New London State's Attorney's office per our office protocol. Our office requested that the Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad (EDMCS) respond to the scene and assume responsibility for the investigation.
Section 51-277a of the General Statutes provides in part that, whenever a peace officer in the performance of such officer's duties, uses physical force upon another person and such person dies as a result thereof, the Division of Criminal Justice shall cause an investigation to be made and shall have the responsibility of determining whether the use of physical force by the peace officer was appropriate under Section 53a-22.
Ordinarily, pursuant to Section 51-277a, the Chief State's Attorney would designate a prosecutorial official of a judicial district other than the judicial district in which the incident occurred to conduct the investigation. The initial determination made by investigators was that Me. Goodale's death had occurred when he jumped to his death from the Fox Tower parking garage at the Foxwoods Resort Casino and was not caused by a peace officer's use of physical force. It was decided, therefore, in consultation with the Chief State's Attorney, that this office would complete the investigation of the incident, as it is the policy of the undersigned to conduct an investigation of an untimely death that occurs during the course of the performance of a peace officer's duties.
It is the conclusion of the undersigned that Mr. Goodale did not die as a result of the use of physical force by the MPTP officers.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE INCIDENT
On Tuesday, September 20,2016, at approximately 10:00 a.m., the MPTP were informed that a patron of Foxwoods Casino, Michael Goodale, DOB: 11/20/92, had an outstanding arrest warrant for violation of probation. The MPTP conducted a NCIC search and confirmed that the violation of probation warrant was a valid PRAWN warrant resulting from a prior conviction for burglary in the third degree. The MPTP confirmed that Mr. Goodale currently was a registered guest at the Fox Towers Hotel. Sergeant George Potts, Sergeant Kevin Leach and Officer Cohen of the MPTP responded to Goodale's hotel room to arrest Goodale on the outstanding warrant. No one answered the door of Mr. Goodale's hotel room. The hotel front desk personnel and security personnel were informed of the situation and were requested to monitor the casino for Mr. Goodale and to notify the MPTP in the event that he was located.
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at approximately 11 :30 a.m., the MPTP dispatch radioed officers that Mr. Goodale had been observed leaving his hotel room and presently was being observed by hotel security cameras. At approximately 11:45 a.m., MPTP dispatch radioed that Goodale was now on the fourth level of the Fox Tower parking garage and was under observation by the garage security cameras. While MPTP officers were responding to the parking garage, MPTP dispatch radioed a clothing description of Mr. Goodale and advised that he was in the northeast corner of the fourth level of the parking garage and that he had been observed to be in possession of a handgun.
Upon arrival on the fourth level of the parking garage, Sgt. Leach encountered Mr. Goodale in the corner of the garage, standing upright on top of the parking garage's exterior cement wall. Sgt. Leach stated in a written statement that he positioned himself behind a cement pillar inside the parking garage and yelled to Mr. Goodale three times, "Police, drop the gun." Mr. Goodale ignored Sgt. Leach's commands, turned towards Sgt. Leach and pointed a black colored handgun at him. Mr. Goodale remained silent and continued to stand on top of the cement wall and point his handgun in Sgt. Leach's direction in what Sgt. Leach considered to be a threatening manner. Sgt. Leach stated that he then fired two shots from his assigned duty weapon at Mr. Goodale. Sgt. Leach then observed Goodale turn away from him towards the exterior of the parking garage and jump off the cement wall to the ground below.
Sergeant Potts stated in a written statement that upon receiving from the MPTP dispatch Mr. Goodale's location inside the parking garage, he and Sgt. Leach drove to the third level of the parking garage in Sgt. Potts' assigned vehicle. Sgt. Potts stated that he and Sgt. Leach initially searched the third level of the parking garage, where they made contact with two Foxwoods Security supervisors. Sgt. Potts, who had remained on the third level of the parking garage while Sgt. Leach proceeded to the fourth level. Sgt. Potts stated that upon reaching the fourth level of the parking garage, he observed Sgt. Leach to be positioned by a pillar yelling "to put the gun down and not to jump." Sgt. Potts stated that he then heard "I am going to jump." Sgt. Potts then entered the fourth level of the parking garage from the stairwell, at which time, he heard what sounded like two gunshots. Sgt. Potts asked Sgt. Leach where the male had gone and Sgt. Leach told him that the male had jumped. Sgt. Potts looked over the exterior wall of the parking garage and observed Mr. Goodale motionless on the ground below.
Sgt. Potts responded to Mr. Goodale's location and determined that he was deceased. Sgt. Potts returned to the fourth level of the parking garage, where he met with Sgt. Leach and then drove Sgt. Leach to the MPTP headquarters. Sgt. Potts took possession of Sgt. Leach's duty weapon and secured it in an evidence locker at the MPTP headquarters.
Officer Cohen stated in a written statement that upon receiving information from the MPTP dispatch of Mr. Goodale's location inside the parking garage, he responded directly to the fourth level of the parking garage. Officer Cohen stated that upon exiting the elevator on the fourth level of the parking garage, he met with Sgt. Leach. Officer Cohen and Sgt. Leach began searching the fourth level of the parking garage, Officer Cohen observed a white male, Mr. Goodale, wearing a black ball cap and backpack, standing in the corner of the garage looking over the cement wall. When Mr. Goodale saw Officer Cohen and Sgt. Leach, he immediately removed his backpack and threw it over the wall of the parking garage to the ground below. Officer Cohen observed that Mr. Goodale was holding a black semi-automatic handgun and waiving it around and pointing it towards the officers. Officer Cohen and Sgt. Leach took cover behind separate cement pillars. Officer Cohen heard Sgt. Leach giving Mr. Goodale multiple loud verbal commands to drop the gun. Mr. Goodale did not comply with Sgt. Leach's commands and continued pointing the gun at the officers. Officer Cohen then heard two gunshots and almost simultaneously he observed Mr. Goodale turn and jump over the cement wall and out of the parking garage. Officer Cohen and the other officers ran over and looked over the cement wall and saw Mr. Goodale lying on his back on the pavement four stories below.
Officer Kevin Barney in a written statement stated that upon receiving information that Mr. Goodale was located inside the parking garage, he drove with Sgt. Potts to the parking garage. Officer Barney, Officer Cohen and Sgt. Potts proceeded up to the fourth level of the parking garage. Officer Barney stated that as he arrived on the fourth level of the parking garage, dispatch radioed that Mr. Goodale was armed with a gun and had discarded the backpack he was carrying. Officer Barney proceeded across the parking level and was able to see a white male, wearing a reddish colored shirt and jeans, standing on the wall of the parking garage holding a black handgun. Officer Barney heard Officer Cohen yelling to Mr. Goodale to drop the handgun. Officer Barney also commanded Mr. Goodale to drop his handgun. Mr. Goodale looked over at Officer Barney and pointed his gun directly at him. Mr. Goodale continued to point the gun back and forth between Officer Barney and Sgt. Leach. Officer Barney heard Sgt. Leach tell Mr. Goodale to drop the gun and show his hands. He heard two gunshots and observed the male fall back off the wall. Officer Barney was not sure who had fired the gunshots.
Officer Holloman stated in a written statement that he had responded to the parking garage in an attempt to locate Mr. Goodale. Officer Holloman was on the fifth level of the parking garage when MPTP dispatch radioed that Goodale was located on the fourth level. He then drove his assigned vehicle down to the fourth level. Upon driving onto the fourth level, he observed Sg!. Leach and Officer Cohen approximately thirty to forty feet ahead of him. Officer Holloman observed a white male wearing a maroon colored shirt and ball cap in the corner of the garage. As Officer Holloman drove closer, he observed the male point a black gun, which appeared to be a semiautomatic weapon, at his assigned cruiser. He then backed up his assigned cruiser, exited the vehicle and took up a position behind Officer Barney along the side of a pillar. Officer Holloman heard someone yell drop the gun. Officer Holloman saw Mr. Goodale standing on top of the wall pointing the gun in the direction of Officer Cohen and Sgt. Leach. Officer Holloman took cover behind the pillar and heard two gunshots. He looked back in the direction of Mr. Goodale and he was gone.
Upon arrival at the Fox Tower parking garage, detectives from the Eastern District Major Crime Squad processed the scene for evidence. Among the items seized was a black colored BB/pellet styled handgun located near where the body of Mr. Goodale had been discovered. The BB/pellet gun was a facsimile of a semi-automatic handgun. Seized from level "P4" of the parking garage were two spent "Federal 40 S&W" shell casings. Seized from the MPTP was Sgt. Leach's Glock 40 cal. semiautomatic pistol.
An examination of the ballistic evidence by the state forensic lab concluded that the two spent shell casings had been fired form Sgt. Leach's Glock.
An autopsy was performed on Mr. Goodale on September 21, 2016 by Dr. Gregory Vincent at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Dr. Vincent concluded that the cause of death was "blunt injuries of head, torso and extremities" and that the manner of death was "suicide (descent from height following confrontation with police)." Dr. Vincent noted that Mr. Goodale had suffered a gunshot wound of the left foot. The wound was described as a "1/2" x )1,;" grazed gunshot wound on the posterolateral aspect of the left foot. The wound has irregular edges with skin tags pointing towards the toe."
Surveillance video from the Fox Tower parking garage was seized and reviewed. The video captured corroborated the statements of the MPTP officers at the scene. Mr. Goodale can be observed on the video holding a black handgun in his hand. At one point Mr. Goodale is observed walking back and forth in a crouched position on the exterior concrete wall of the parking garage while repeatedly raising and pointing his handgun towards the officers. Mr. Goodale then abruptly turns around facing away from the officers and the garage and jumps off the wall to the ground below, a distance of approximately 81 feet. The surveillance video has no audio.
A review was conducted of the three MPTP officers' body cameras worn at the time of the incident. The body cameras captured different angles of the incident and recorded surrounding audio. None of the three MPTP body cameras captured Goodale, either audibly or visually. The MPTP body cameras audio recordings captured several MPTP officers repeatedly shouting "Drop the gun," "He just chucked the bag ... he's going to jump," "He's got a gun in his hand, I saw it", "He just jumped" and "Rush EMS." In addition, the audio of what sounds like two gunshots is heard on the body cameras.
Section 53a-22 (c) of the General Statutes permits a police officer to use deadly physical force upon another person when he reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. The test to determine reasonableness is both subjective and objective. First, the officer must believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or another from the imminent use of deadly physical force. Second, the belief must be objectively reasonable. See State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, cert. denied, 262 Conn. 923 (2002). The burden is on the state to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of self-defense as set forth in §53a-22. State v. Smith, supra, 73 Conn. App. at 185-86.
The test is not whether it was in fact necessary for the officer to use deadly physical force in order to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force. The test is whether the officer believed it was necessary to use deadly physical force and whether such belief was objectively reasonable, based on the facts and circumstances known to the police officer at the time the decision to use deadly force was made. See State v. Silveira , 198 Conn. 454 (1986), State v. Adams , 52 Conn. App. 643 (1999).
The United States Supreme Court has explained this test in a civil rights case.
"The 'reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. . .The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance of the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions - in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving - about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Graham v. Connor , 490 U.S. 386 (1989).
"The appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them." Scott v. Henrich , 39 F.3d. 912, 915 (9 th Cir. 1992). "Under the circumstances at the moment when the [shot] was fired a reasonable police officer could have concluded that [Corey) was intent on resuming his flight and that if allowed to do so, he would have posed a deadly threat for the [Troopers and] others on the road." Plumhoff v. Rickard ,________ US _______ ,134 S.Ct. 2012, 2022, 188 L.Ed.2d 1056 (2014).
The threatening manner in which Mr. Goodale continually pointed his handgun at the officers and his refusal to drop his handgun after repeated commands to do so, justified Sgt. Leach's use of deadly force. The deadly physical force used by Sgt. Leach as evidenced by the autopsy report, however, cannot be found to have been the proximate cause of the death of Mr. Goodale. The facts clearly indicate that Mr. Goodale died as a result of his jumping off the wall of the parking garage and falling approximately 81 feet to his death.
I would like to thank the Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad for their role in this investigation. In addition, I would like to thank the Mashantucket Tribal Police Department for their assistance and cooperation.
No further action is to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of this incident.
Dated at New London, Connecticut this 2nd day of February, 2018.
MICHAEL L. REGAN
NEW LONDON JUDICIAL DISTRICT