Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New Britain Concerning the Shooting Death of Hiram Marrero in New Haven on December 16, 2004
Table of Contents
On the afternoon of December 16, 2004, members of the New Haven Police Department were sent to an apartment complex located at the corner of Ella Grasso Boulevard and Legion Avenue on a report of a possible stabbing. Upon arriving on scene two officers entered 991 Ella Grasso Boulevard, Apartment No. 12 from the front door, while three other officers went to the back of the building. The residents of this second floor apartment were the decedent, Hiram Marrero, and his roommate James Grzywacz. The five officers encountered Mr. Marrero, who had exited the back door of his apartment onto the deck and then began to descend the exterior staircase. In the ensuing confrontation three of the officers discharged their firearms, thereby causing the death of Mr. Marrero. These officers were identified as Officer Rahugue Tennant, Officer Robert Lawlor and Officer David Runlett of the New Haven Police Department. The Connecticut State Police responded to the scene that afternoon and began an investigation into the death of Mr. Marrero.
On December 23, 2004, the New Haven State’s Attorney, Michael Dearington, requested that Chief State’s Attorney Christopher Morano assign the investigation of this police shooting to another State’s Attorney. Mr. Morano, pursuant to Section 51-277a(b) of the General Statutes, then assigned this investigation to the undersigned. Section 51-277a(c) of the General Statutes requires the undersigned State’s Attorney to determine, upon completion of the investigation, the circumstances of the incident and whether deadly force was appropriate under Section 53a-22 of the General Statutes.
Upon being assigned this investigation the undersigned requested, pursuant to Section 51-277a(a) of the General Statutes, that the Connecticut State Police continue to assist in the investigation. As part of the investigation the State Police, on the night of December 16, 2004, processed the scene at and about 991 Ella Grasso Boulevard. The weapons of the three officers and the clothing and effects of Mr. Marreo were seized by the Connecticut State Police. Numerous witnesses were located and interviewed by the State Police. In addition, a number of New Haven police officers who were present at or about the scene of the shooting submitted written reports. Written statements signed by the three officers who discharged their weapons were later submitted to the State Police by attorneys representing these officers. (Follow this link to read Footnote 1) An autopsy of Mr. Marrero was performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and a report of that autopsy was subsequently prepared. The State Police Forensic Science Laboratory conducted several examinations on physical evidence and written reports were generated.
Upon completion of the investigation, the State Police provided to the undersigned their investigative results, including police reports, written statements and reports of forensic testing. The undersigned also visited the scene of the shooting, accompanied by the State Police. After reviewing all of the pertinent documents and pursuant to Section 51-277a(c) of the General Statutes, this report is hereby filed.
Members of the Western District Major Crime Squad of the Connecticut State Police arrived at 991 Ella Grasso Boulevard at approximately 4:25 p.m. on December 16, 2004. After written consent to search the apartment was obtained from the property manager of the complex, the State Police began to process the decedent’s apartment and the surrounding area. The processing included a survey of the area, a drafting of a sketch map, videotaping and still photography of the scene, and the identification, seizure and cataloguing of numerous pieces of evidence. A police report was written detailing the processing of the scene.
991 Ella Grasso Boulevard is part of a larger complex of apartments which provide housing for clients with mental health needs. This apartment complex consists of four residential buildings located at the intersection of Ella Grasso Boulevard and Legion Avenue. The decedent’s residence, apartment No. 12, is located in the northern most building of this complex. This two-story building contains twelve apartments, with four apartments assigned to each street number. Apartment No. 12 is on the second floor. Each address has one common front entrance accessing four apartments, with a staircase leading to the second floor apartments. All of the apartments also have a separate rear door. The rear doors of the second floor apartments exit onto an open, exposed wooden deck (Follow this link to read Footnote 2), approximately ten feet above the ground. The deck is surrounded by a wooden railing and has an exposed staircase leading to an asphalt walkway. Apartment No. 12 shares a deck with Apartment No. 10, with the staircase descending in a westerly direction. The bottom of this staircase is affixed to a concrete landing and is opposite from a concrete landing at the bottom of a second staircase which descends in a easterly direction from the deck attached to apartment No. 8.
This asphalt walkway extends approximately seventeen feet from the back of the apartment building. This walkway is bordered on the north by an approximate four foot strip of dirt which appears to have been a flower bed. Beyond this flower bed is a retaining wall. This wall in the vicinity of apartment No. 12 is approximately two feet in height. The distance from the staircase to the retaining wall is approximately fifteen feet.
The State Police documented numerous items discovered outside the apartment. The items found behind the apartment building included two Farberware kitchen knifes, both of which were thirteen inches in length, with black handles and eight inch serrated blades, ten expended brass cartridge casings, six 9 mm bullet fragments, emergency medical debris and a black and yellow baseball hat. The State Police found on the deck a disposable cigarette lighter. The State Police seized at the hospital the clothes and effects of the decedent. These effects included another Farberwear knife, described as being thirteen and one quarter inches long, with an eight and one quarter inch serrated blade and a screwdriver, seven inches in length. The discharged weapons of the three officers also were seized by the State Police.
During the processing of the scene four bullet strikes were observed at the scene. Two of the bullet strikes were in the staircase railing. The direction of the bullets which caused these strikes appeared to be from the top of the staircase leading from the deck attached to apartment No. 12. The other two strikes were to the side of the apartment building. The bullet that caused one of these strikes struck the bottom edge of a shingle, then traveling through a broken casement window located behind it. The conclusion of the State Police was that this bullet was fired from a location between the stairs to apartment No. 8 and the retaining wall. The fourth bullet hole was found in a shingle near the stairs to apartment No. 8. The State Police were not able to probe this hole with any accuracy and thus could not determine the direction from which the bullet had been discharged.
The police also discovered several apparent blood stains in the back of the apartment building. Minute drops of apparent dried blood were located on the ground between the concrete landings of the two staircases. Two larger apparent blood stains were located between the back of the building and the staircase leading to apartment No. 8. Medical debris located in this area is consistent with this being where Mr. Marrero came to rest after being shot. Three apparent contact transfer patterns were also observed; the first being in the area between the two staircases, the second, twenty-two inches north of the bottom of the stairs leading to apartment No. 8 and the third, on the asphalt pavement between this staircase and the back of the building.
The apartment of the decedent was also processed for evidence. Apartment No. 12 is a five room, two bedroom apartment. The police noted that the stove in the kitchen had been moved away from the wall and appeared to be out of place. In the kitchen also was found a wooden knife block containing five Farberwear knives similar in design to the three knives seized during the course of this investigation. This knife block contained slots for seven additional knives and a pair of scissors.
The decedent’s bedroom was entered and found in a generally neat and orderly condition. On the decedent’s bed was found a closed can of "Sterno" type cooking fuel and a claw hammer. Upon examination, minute glass particles were found embedded in several scratches in the face of the hammer.
The other bedroom in the apartment, which is Mr. Grzywacz’s, was found to be in violent disarray. Numerous items in this room were found to have been damaged. The front of a television had been smashed, with broken glass observed on a dresser. The door of a microwave had also been smashed in. A computer system was found knocked over and dented, with the monitor screen smashed.
The living room was examined and found to be neat and orderly with two exceptions. The front door had been kicked in, with the deadbolt lock lying on the top of the inside staircase. Also a can of stew was found on the floor of the living room, with pieces of a broken ceramic bowl on the carpet. The bowl had dried residue consistent with stew on it. A splattering of the same substance was observed on the walls and furniture of the room.
The handguns of the three officers were inspected by the State Police. Each firearm was a Glock model 17 nine millimeter pistol. The firearm of Officer Lawlor was found to be missing four rounds, Officer Tennant’s firearm was missing three rounds and Officer Runlett’s weapon was missing three rounds. A total of ten rounds were missing from the three guns, which was consistent with finding ten empty shell casings at the scene.
Mr. Grzywacz was the roommate of Mr. Marrero. He was first interviewed on December 16, 2004, by the Connecticut State Police. An audio tape of this interview was made. Thereafter a transcript of this interview was created and Mr. Grzywacz reviewed and then signed this transcript. A second interview of Mr. Grzywacz was conducted by the State Police on January 13, 2006. A written statement of Mr. Grzywacz was taken during this interview. The following information is derived from the signed transcript and the written statement.
Mr. Grzywacz had been the roommate of Mr. Marrero for a period of five months. Mr. Grzywacz was a client of the Continuum of Care program. Because Mr. Marrero usually spoke Spanish, of which Mr. Grzywacz understood little, there was limited communication between the two roommates. At some time prior to the day of the shooting, the two roommates had a dispute over a phone bill which had caused some conflict between them. To resolve the problem another phone for the apartment was installed, in the name of Mr. Grzywacz. Mr. Grzywacz believed that this phone bill issue had been settled.
On the evening of December 15, 2004, Mr. Grzywacz took some medication and thereafter went to bed. At that time the apartment was undamaged. The next afternoon, December 16, Mr. Grzywacz had taken a nap in his bedroom. He was awakened by a telephone call from a counselor asking that he unlock the apartment door. Mr. Grzywacz entered the kitchen and encountered Mr. Marrero. Mr. Marrero appeared agitated and was yelling at Mr. Grzywacz. Mr. Grzywacz noted that Mr. Marrero’s eyes were big and fixed and his hand was behind his back. Mr. Grzywacz concluded that Mr. Marrero had a knife in that hand. Mr. Marrero slowly backed up to the back door and locked it. Mr. Grzywacz was frightened by the actions of Mr. Marrero. As Mr. Grzywacz went to the front door to open it, Mr. Marrero yelled, asking Mr. Grzywacz why had he killed Mr. Marrero’s family. Mr. Marrero then said that Mr. Grzywacz had killed his family and that Mr. Grzywacz was using Mr. Marrero’s phone and cable and was tapping his phone.
Mr. Grzywacz went and opened the front door for the counselors to enter. After he did that Mr. Marrero approached Mr. Grzywacz and sprayed him in the eye with a bottle of fragrance. Mr. Marrero walked into the kitchen, then went back to Mr. Grzywacz and waved a lighter in front of his face, burning the tip of his nose. As Mr. Marrero did this he had his hand behind him, causing Mr. Grzywacz to believe that he had a weapon in his hand. Mr. Grzywacz, believing that he was being attacked, threw plates at Mr. Marrero.
Mr. Grzywacz stated that James (James Corcoran), the counselor, got in front of Mr. Marrero and was talking to him. Mr. Marrero lunged at James. James moved back, hitting his head and back on the door frame. Mr. Grzywacz then left his apartment, going to a neighbor’s. Mr. Grzywacz stated that he believed that Mr. Marrero had a knife when he attacked James but he did not see it.
Mr. Grzywacz stated that after he and the counselors left, Mr. Marrero was alone in the apartment. As Mr. Grzywacz descended the front staircase, he heard sounds coming from his apartment of things breaking and crashing. He concluded that Mr. Marrero was destroying things in the apartment. Mr. Grzywacz thought about going back to his apartment but decided to leave the building instead.
Mr. Marrero did not return to his apartment until several weeks later. At that time he observed the damage to his apartment.
Dominique Coleman is a team leader, employed by Continuum of Care, at the apartment complex in which Mr. Marrero lived. She was interviewed on December 16, 2004 by the State Police and provided to them a sworn written statement. The following is derived from this written statement.
Ms. Coleman was at her office in the afternoon of December 16, 2004, when Case Manager Matthew Hall entered, reporting that Mr. Marrero was very delusional and psychotic. She called 911 and then telephoned Mr. Grzywacz to see if he was okay. She also sent Mr. Hall and Case Manager James Corcoran to the apartment of Mr. Marrero for the purpose of getting Mr. Grzywacz out of the apartment and to check on Mr. Marrero.
Thereafter she heard yelling and moving around and saw the staff getting Mr. Grzywacz out of the apartment before leaving themselves. They waited for the police to arrive to assist in the handling of Mr. Marrero. Ms. Coleman thereafter went to the back of the building via apartment No. 17 and stood on the back porch. From that location she could see Mr. Marrero moving back and forth under the porch. It did not appear to her that he had anything in his hands. The police were ordering Mr. Marrero to get on the ground. Ms. Coleman then heard approximately five or six gunshots. She shouted for the police to stop shooting but did not believe that her words could be heard.
Matthew Hall was a case manager at 997 Ella Grasso Boulevard, employed by Continuum of Care. He was interviewed by the State Police on December 16, 2004 and provided to them a handwritten, sworn statement describing the events of that day. The following is derived from this written statement.
Mr. Hall, on the afternoon of December 16, 2004, received a call from a resident that there was loud banging and yelling coming from the apartment of Mr. Marrero. In response, Mr. Hall went to this apartment and knocked on the door. Mr. Marrero, in a very hostile voice, asked who it was. After Mr. Hall identified himself, Mr. Marrero told him to go away. Mr. Hall returned to the office and advised Ms. Coleman of what had happened. Ms. Coleman called 911, explaining that Mr. Marrero was very paranoid and very delusional.
Mr. Hall and Mr. Corcoran returned to the apartment of Mr. Marrero to make sure that Mr. Grzywacz was okay. Mr. Grzywacz opened the door and Mr. Hall saw Mr. Marrero standing about ten feet behind Mr. Grzywacz. Immediately Mr. Marrero began to charge at Mr. Grzywacz and Mr. Grzywacz then threw a bowl at him. Mr. Corcoran got between the two roommates. Mr. Marrero then lunged at Mr. Corcoran, slightly puncturing his abdomen with some kind of sharp object. The two aides left the apartment with Mr. Grzywacz, closed the apartment door and ran down the stairs.
Upon exiting the building Mr. Hall saw that firefighters and emergency medical personnel were already present. Shortly thereafter police officers arrived at the scene. Mr. Hall went to the back of the apartment building to see if Mr. Marrero had gone out the back door of his apartment. Mr. Hall observed Mr. Marrero on the rear deck of his apartment, holding a part of a chair and a knife in his hand. Upon seeing this Mr. Hall ran to the front of the building and told the police what he had observed.
Mr. Hall then returned to the back of the apartment building and saw Mr. Marrero and heard Mr. Marrero yelling at the police. He was unable to clearly hear what Mr. Marrero was saying. Although the police repeatedly ordered Mr. Marrero to drop the knife, he ignored the police and began to walk down the staircase, swinging the knife. Mr. Hall describe the swinging motion as extending the knife away from his body in a slashing motion. Mr. Marrero then threw the chair fragment and the knife toward the police. The knife landed about 20-25 feet from the police. Mr. Marrero then reached down toward his socks and appeared to grab either another knife or some kind of weapon. Mr. Marrero continued down the staircase. Mr. Hall said that there was approximately 5-7 police officers by the stairs. Mr. Hall stated that the police were standing about 10-15 feet from the base of the stairs.
Upon getting near the bottom of the stairs, Mr. Marrero continued to move toward the officers. The police warned Mr. Marrero several times to stop advancing and to put his weapon down. As Mr. Marrero approached the officers, the police opened fire. Mr. Hall estimated that Mr. Marrero was 12-15 feet from the police when he was shot. Mr. Hall stated that he saw and heard the police shoot at Mr. Marrero roughly 8-12 times. Mr. Hall estimated that he was approximately 100 feet away from Mr. Marrero when Mr. Marrero pulled the weapon out of his sock.
Mr. Corcoran is a case manager employed by Continuum of Care. He was interviewed by the State Police on December 16, 2004 and provided to the police a sworn written statement. The following information is detailed from this statement.
Mr. Corcoran was assigned to work at the Extended Living Program, located at the corner of Ella Grasso Boulevard and Legion Avenue. Although Mr. Corcoran has not been the case worker for Mr. Marrero, he knew him very well.
Mr. Corcoran stated that Mr. Marrero has not been himself lately, due to a problem over financial concerns as well as his delusions of grandeur. Mr. Marrero had been admitted to St. Raphael’s Emergency room during the week prior to the shooting by the staff in hopes that he would be admitted into the psychiatric ward. Mr. Marrero was discharged three days later, prematurely in the view of Mr. Corcoran and his co-workers.
On December 16, 2004, the downstairs neighbor of Mr. Marrero called the office, complaining that Mr. Marrero was making noise by banging around and shouting. A co-worker, Matthew Hall, went to check on Mr. Marrero, but Mr. Marrero told Mr. Hall to go away. Mr. Hall returned to the office, told the office team leader, Dominique Coleman, what had transpired and Ms. Coleman called the police. She told the police that they had a client who was psychotic and requested assistance. Ms. Coleman then called Jim Grzywacz, the roommate of Mr. Marrero, and told him that he needed to leave the apartment. Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Hall then went to the apartment of Mr. Marrero.
Upon arriving at the apartment Mr. Corcoran knocked on the door, with Mr. Hall right behind him. He heard Mr. Marrero shouting and then the roommate of Mr. Marrero, James Grzywacz, opened the door. Mr. Corcoran saw an altercation occurring between the two roommates. Mr. Marrero rushed over and sprayed Mr. Grzywacz in the face with an aerosol can. Mr. Grzywacz then threw a cereal bowl at the head of Mr. Marrero. Mr. Corcoran moved into the apartment to separate the two roommates and Mr. Marrero then attacked Mr. Corcoran. Mr. Marrero swung his arm, holding in his hand what appeared to be a knife, toward the abdomen of Mr. Corcoran. Mr. Corcoran suffered a cut to his abdomen as a result of this attack. Mr. Corcoran, Mr. Hall and Mr. Grzywacz then exited the apartment through the front door, leaving Mr. Marrero alone. Upon exiting the building Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Hall met up with Ms. Coleman. Mr. Corcoran told her what happened and showed her the cut on his abdomen. At that time New Haven Fire Department personnel arrived at the scene and all of them waited for the police.
Once the police had arrived on scene, Mr. Corcoran went through the office, apartment No. 17, and stepped onto the deck attached to apartment No. 17, which is located at the back of the apartment building. He observed Mr. Marrero exit his apartment onto the back deck at about the same time as two police officers appeared in the back area behind the apartment building. Mr. Corcoran pointed out Mr. Marrero to the police. Mr. Corcoran observed Mr. Marrero standing on the deck holding a weapon with a long handle. One of the officers was telling Mr. Marrero to drop the knife while the second officer pointed his gun at Mr. Marrero. Mr. Marrero walked down the staircase, holding the knife while the police officer commanded him to drop the knife. Mr. Marrero, upon getting near the last step of the stairs, threw the knife and then reached into his pants leg and grabbed a second knife that must have been hidden in his sock. Mr. Marrero then moved off of the staircase, going under the stairs, with his back up against the apartment complex. One officer continued to order Mr. Marrero to drop the knife. The distance between Mr. Marrero and the police was approximately 12 feet at this point. One of the officers fired a round at Mr. Marrero, but Mr. Marrero continued to stand his ground. Approximately ten seconds after the first shot was fired six more shots were heard. Mr. Marrero fell to the ground. Mr. Corcoran believed that all shots were fired by the same officer.
Mr. Baxter is a resident of 993 Ella Grasso Boulevard. He was interviewed by the State Police on December 16, 2004 and signed a sworn written statement. The following is derived from this written statement.
Mr. Baxter was in his apartment on December 16, 2004, watching television when he heard voices from the back of the apartment building. Looking out the window he saw four or five police officers standing at the bottom of the stairs looking up at the second floor landing. He also saw a resident of the apartment complex walking down the stairs holding a large knife which he moved back and forth. The officers were repeatedly ordering the man to drop the knife, but he did not. Near the bottom of the stairs the man threw the knife toward the police. The man then leaned forward as though he was trying to pick up the knife. The man then turned away from the police, toward Mr. Baxter and the police shot the man. Mr. Baxter believed that he heard four or five shots fired. The man fell down and was handcuffed by the police.
Michael Blatchley is a New Haven firefighter who was called to 983 Ella Grasso Boulevard on a report of a medical emergency. He was interviewed by the State Police on December 16, 2004 and gave a sworn written statement. The following is derived from this written statement.
Mr. Blatchley arrived at 983 Ella Grasso Boulevard after receiving a report of a medical emergency. Mr. Blatchley was familiar with this address and knew it housed people with mental health issues because the fire department had received frequent calls for assistance from that address. Shortly after arriving at the scene a caseworker came down the stairs and stated that he had been stabbed. Mr. Blatchley believed the wound to be minor. The fire captain then radioed for police backup, given that the individual was armed. The police arrived and three officers went around to the back of the building while two others went in the front of the building. A second caseworker informed the police and firefighters that the armed individual was now on the back deck.
Mr. Blatchley, upon hearing this news, went to the back of the building. He observed three police officers standing at the bottom of the stairs and a man standing on the second floor deck. The man on the deck was holding in his hand a large knife, with a blade measuring 8 or 9 inches in length. The police were repeatedly telling the man to drop the knife. Mr. Blatchley believed that the man said, "don’t shoot me", but he was not sure. Mr. Blatchley, realizing that things were going to get bad, backed up to a safer position.
The man began to descend the stairs as the police continued to order him to drop the knife. As he walked down the stairs the man threw or dropped the knife in the general direction of the standing police officers. Mr. Blatchley was facing the back of this man. Mr. Blatchley did not see a second knife in the possession of this man but heard the police continue to order him to drop the knife. Mr. Blatchley believed therefore that the man did have a second knife on him.
When this man was about halfway down the stairs Mr. Blatchley heard a single gunshot. The man did not flinch but continued down the staircase, with the officers continuing to order him to drop the knife. Mr. Blatchley said that the man was not charging toward the officers but walking with a purpose. As this man reached the last or second to last step, Mr. Blatchley heard four to six gunshots and the man fell down. At the time that the multiple shots were fired, Mr. Blatchley stated that the man was six feet or less away from the police officers. Mr. Blatchley further stated that as the man descended the steps he appeared to be agitated, flailing his arms about.
Mr. Bigio was a paramedic working for the American Medical Response Ambulance Service. His unit responded, on the afternoon of December 16, 2004, to a call for services at the apartment complex located at Ella Grasso Boulevard and Legion Avenue. He was interviewed by the State Police on December 16, 2004, then wrote and signed a statement. The following is derived from that sworn statement.
Mr. Bigio was called to the scene on a report of a psychiatric issue. Upon arriving he observed several firefighters waiting outside the front door and learned that somebody inside an apartment had attempted to stab somebody. The firefighters were awaiting the arrival of the police. Shortly thereafter police officers did arrive at the scene. Two officers, with guns drawn, entered the front door of the apartment building and ascended the stairs. Upon reaching the top of the stairs they began to force the door open. Two other officers went around the right side of the apartment building and one or two other officers went around the left side of the building. Somebody shouted that the man was on the back deck, which caused the two officers who had entered the front door of the apartment building to descend the stairs and proceed around the left side of the building.
Mr. Bigio remained in the front of the building. The next thing that he heard was multiple gunshots. Mr. Bigio estimated the number of gunshots to be approximately seven and the time interval between the shots no more than one or two seconds. Thereafter Mr. Bigio went to the back of the apartment building and administered aid to the man who had been shot.
OFFICER ANDRES DIAZ
Officer Diaz was interviewed on scene on the night of the shooting by the State Police. Officer Diaz was interviewed a second time by the State Police at the New Haven Police Station on May 11, 2005. Also present during this second interview were two New Haven Police officers. At the conclusion of this interview Officer Diaz provided a sworn written statement describing the events surrounding the shooting of Mr. Marrero. The following is derived from the written statement of Officer Diaz as well as the State Police reports detailing the two interviews.
Officer Diaz responded to a complaint of a man with a knife at 983 Ella Grasso Boulevard. Upon arriving on scene Officer Diaz and two other police officers approached fire department personnel. Somebody yelled that a person had been stabbed and was at the rear of the building. Officer Diaz followed two fellow officers, Officer Tennant and Officer McArthur, around to the back of the apartment building and there Officer Diaz observed Mr. Marrero standing on a second floor deck, with a knife in his hand. At this time Officer Diaz was approximately 10 to 12 feet behind the other two officers. Mr. Marrero said something to the officers, which Officer Diaz could not make out, and then started to go back into his apartment. Mr. Marrero went part way into the apartment and then returned to the deck, still with the knife in his hand, motioning toward the police with the knife. The three officers then drew their weapons. Officer Diaz then saw two other police officers exit the apartment of Mr. Marrero onto the outside deck. Mr. Marrero, while standing on this deck, continued to yell something.
Mr. Marrero then began to descend the stairs. Mr. Marrero continued to motion with the knife as he descended the stairs and the officers continued to order Mr. Marrero to drop the knife. When Mr. Marrero got half way down the stairs he leaned against the railing, toward the officers on the ground, with the knife, in motion, in front of him. The knife came out of Mr. Marrero’s hand and fell to the ground.
Mr. Marrero then continued to walk down the stairs reaching the pavement and looked at the two officers. Mr. Marrero was ordered to get down on the ground. Instead he knelt down and began to pull on his right pants leg, as though he was reaching for a weapon. At this point Officer Diaz heard a shot fired. Officer Diaz notified dispatch that shots were fired. Mr. Marrero looked at the area he was shot, then looked at the two officers, bent down again and again reached toward his right ankle. A second shot was heard by Officer Diaz. Mr. Marrero continued to grab at his ankle and pulled out a knife from his sock. As Mr. Marrero started to raise the knife several more shots were fired. Officer Diaz stated that Mr. Marrero was standing between the two staircases when he was first shot and that the shot came from the retaining wall. Mr. Marrero was thereafter secured by police and medics reported to the scene.
OFFICER QUINTON MCARTHUR
Officer McArthur was interviewed by the State Police on the night of the shooting while in the area of the shooting. On the same night he wrote and signed a police report describing the incident. The following is derived from the information provided during this interview and from his police report.
Officer McArthur stated that he was dispatched to 983 Ella Grasso Boulevard on a report of a man with mental health needs. The dispatcher informed him that a male was swinging a knife, attempting to cut people. Officer McArthur stated that upon arriving at the front of the apartment building Officer Tennant and he ran to the back of the building. Upon arriving at the back of the building he observed Mr. Marrero on the deck waving a knife. Police officers ordered Mr. Marrero several times to drop the knife. Mr. Marrero then either threw or dropped the knife to the ground and began to descend the stairs. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, Mr. Marrero reached down toward his right leg and attempted to grab an unknown object. Officer McArthur said he was approximately two yards from Mr. Marrero when Mr. Marrero reached the bottom of the staircase. Both Officer McArthur and Officer Tennant loudly and clearly ordered Mr. Marrero to keep his hands up, which he did not do. Officer McArthur said he then turned away from Mr. Marrero and retreated. As he turned away he heard gunshots. Officer McArthur said that he did not know who fired the first round at Mr. Marrero or where Mr. Marrero was located when he was struck. He did recall that after Mr. Marrero had been shot he (Officer McArthur) issued a burst of pepper spray to the face of Mr. Marrero, believing it to be necessary for officer safety. He then handcuffed Mr. Marrero and moved a knife from the vicinity of Mr. Marrero to the dirt flowerbed. Officer McArthur stated that he did not know which of the two knives he moved.
OFFICER RAHUGUE TENNANT
On March 8, 2005, Officer Rahugue Tennant of the New Haven Police, through his attorney, signed a sworn written statement detailing the events surrounding the shooting of Mr. Marrero. This statement was thereafter forwarded to the State Police. The following is derived from his sworn statement.
Officer Tennant stated that on December 16, 2004 shortly after the beginning of his shift, which began at 3 p.m., he and fellow officers were dispatched to Ella Grasso Boulevard and Legion Avenue on a report of a man attempting to stab people with a large kitchen knife. Upon arriving on scene he met up with fellow New Haven officers Quintarus MacArthur, David Runlett and Robert Lawlor. They were informed by New Haven fire personnel that the subject was in possession of a knife, had already stabbed an individual with this knife and was presently in the second floor apartment. Officers Runlett and Lawlor stated that they would be entering the suspect’s apartment through the front entrance. Officer Tennant, along with Officer McArthur, walked toward the rear of the apartment building where they observed Mr. Marrero standing on a second floor staircase, which led to a deck, with a large knife in his hand. Officers Tennant and MacArthur drew their service weapons and repeatedly commanded Mr. Marrero to drop the knife. He continued to hold the knife in his hand.
Mr. Marrero began to descend the staircase, knife in his right hand, toward the ground level where the two officers were located. The two officers backed up a few feet, because the knife was being pointed in their direction. Upon reaching the midpoint of the staircase, Mr. Marrero threw the knife at the two officers. These officers moved to avoid being struck by the knife. Mr. Marrero continued to descend the staircase, reaching the ground, where he turned and faced the two officers. At this point Mr. Marrero was ten to fifteen feet from the Officers Tennant and McArthur.
At this time, Officer Tennant, believing that Mr. Marrero was unarmed, holstered his weapon and began to approach Mr. Marrero. His intent was to subdue Mr. Marrero and handcuff him. As Officer Tennant walked toward Mr. Marrero, Mr. Marrero crouched down and began to reach toward his right ankle area. Officer Tennant stopped walking, again drew his service firearm and demanded that Mr. Marrero show his hands. Mr. Marrero pulled out a knife from his right ankle area and began to approach the two officers, ignoring the verbal command to show his hands. Responding to this action, Officer Tennant fired his weapon at Mr. Marrero. Officer Tennant believed that he fired two or three rounds and that he struck Mr. Marrero with these shots. Mr. Marrero did not drop his weapon and remained on his feet. Officer Tennant then heard additional shots and Mr. Marrero fell to the ground. Mr. Marrero was subdued, the knife kicked away and medical personnel thereafter attended to his injuries.
Officer Tennant stated that he felt that it was necessary to fire his weapon at Mr. Marrero to prevent him from being stabbed, given the proximity of Mr. Marrero to the officer, his non-compliant behavior and his possession of a large knife.
OFFICER ROBERT F. LAWLOR, JR.
On March 8, 2005, Officer Lawlor, through his attorney, signed a written sworn statement describing the events surrounding the shooting of Mr. Marrero. Thereafter this statement was sent to the Connecticut State Police. The following is derived from this statement.
Officer Lawlor stated that on December 16, 2004, shortly after reporting to work at 3 p.m., he received a call from dispatch regarding a male waving a knife and threatening people at an address on Ella Grasso Boulevard. He responded to this call. He arrived at the scene at the same time as Officers Runlett, Tennant and McArthur. An ambulance and a fire truck were already on scene. A firefighter informed the officers that the suspect was in a second floor apartment, walking between the apartment and the rear deck. The firefighter further stated that a victim had been stabbed in the abdomen. Officer Lawlor concluded that the injured party was being denied medical attention because of the suspect was using a knife to keep medical personnel at bay. Officers Tennant and McArthur then went around to the back of the apartment and Officers Lawlor and Runlett went through the front door and proceeded to the second floor of the building.
Officers Lawlor and Runlett, ascended the front staircase to the second floor. There they found that the door of the apartment where the suspect was believed to be located was locked. They gained entry to the apartment by Officer Runlett kicking the door open. Upon entering the apartment the officers noticed a strong smell of gas. They heard over the police radio an unidentified voice say that the suspect was out back. They also heard Officers Tennant and McArthur screaming "put down the knife". The officers proceeded through the apartment toward the back deck, scanning the apartment for injured people. Upon approaching the back deck Officer Lawlor observed Mr. Marrero proceeding down the staircase toward Officers Tennant and McArthur. Officers Tennant and McArthur had drawn their firearms and were ordering Mr. Marrero to drop his weapon. Initially Mr. Marrero ignored the order to drop his knife and then, without warning, he threw the weapon at the police officers. The knife landed near the feet of Officers Tennant and McArthur.
Once Mr. Marrero had thrown the knife, Officers Tennant and McArthur holstered their weapons and began to approach Mr. Marrero. Officers Runlett and Lawlor had previously drawn their weapons and continued to do so. As Officers Tennant and McArthur closed to within approximately ten feet of Mr. Marrero, Mr. Marrero, in a quick, sudden movement, crouched down. He pulled out a knife from the area of his right ankle and moved toward Officers Tennant and McArthur in an threatening manner. Officer Lawlor stated that he fired two rounds at Mr. Marrero. Mr. Marrero fell to the ground and was subdued by fellow officers.
Officer Lawlor stated that he believed that the actions of Mr. Marrero placed the lives of Officers Tennant and McArthur in serious and imminent danger.
OFFICER DAVID RUNLETT
On March 8, 2005, through his attorney, Officer Runlett signed a sworn written statement describing the events surrounding the shooting of Mr. Marrero. Thereafter this statement was sent to the Connecticut State Police. The following is derived from this statement.
After his shift began at 3 p.m., Officer Runlett received a broadcast from dispatch that a man at 983 Ella Grasso Boulevard was wielding a knife. Officer Runlett responded to this call. He and Officer Lawlor arrived together at the scene and he observed Officers Tennant and Diaz also enter the driveway of the apartment complex. Upon exiting their police cruisers, Officers Runlett and Lawlor encountered a New Haven firefighter who told them that an individual had been stabbed, condition unknown, and that he was outside in the rear of the building. They were further told that the suspect was in the second floor apartment. Upon receiving this information Officer Lawlor and Officer Runlett proceeded up the front staircase to the suspect’s apartment and Officers Tennant, Diaz and McArthur went toward the rear of the building to secure the rear entrance.
Upon arriving at the second floor landing, Officer Runlett checked the apartment door of Mr. Marrero and found it to be locked. Within seconds of taking this action, Officer Runlett heard police officers yelling from the rear of the building, "We have him in the back on the deck, drop the knife, drop the knife". Officer Runlett kicked in the door and Officer Lawlor and he entered the apartment of Mr. Marrero . He observed Mr. Marrero on the rear deck holding a large knife in his hand. Officers were shouting many times "drop the knife". Officer Runlett and Officer Lawlor had previously unholstered their weapons.
Mr. Marrero began to descend the staircase and Officer Runlett and Officer Lawlor, in response, walked through the apartment and onto the rear deck. Officer Runlett then observed Officers Tennant and McArthur with their guns drawn and heard them continue to command Mr. Marrero to drop the knife. Mr. Marrero, halfway down the staircase, stopped and threw the knife in the direction of Officers Tennant and McArthur. Mr. Marrero then continued to descend the staircase.
As Mr. Marrero reached the bottom of the staircase, Officers Tennant and McArthur holstered their firearms and began to move toward Mr. Marrero. Officer Runlett lowered his weapon and began to move toward the stairs. As Officer Tennant got to within 15-20 feet of Mr. Marrero, Mr. Marrero crouched down, pulled a knife out of his right sock and made an sudden, aggressive move toward Officer Tennant. Officer Runlett yelled that Mr. Marrero had a knife. He observed Officer Tennant reach for his firearm, move away from Mr. Marrero and fire appropriately three rounds at Mr. Marrero. Officer Runlett was uncertain whether Mr. Marrero was struck by the gunfire.
Mr. Marrero ducked behind an adjacent staircase. While still brandishing the weapon, Mr. Marrero then made another aggressive move toward Officer Tennant. At this time both Officer Runlett and Officer Lawlor fired their handguns at Mr. Marrero. Mr. Marrero fell to the ground and was secured by Officer McArthur. Officer Runlett stated that he fired one round from his handgun and that Officer Lawlor fired two rounds. Officer Runlett stated that at the time he fired his weapon he feared for the life of Officer Tennant.
An autopsy on the body of Hiram Marrero was conducted on December 17, 2004, at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner by Dr. Frank Evangelista. Thereafter the report of Dr. Evangelista detailing this autopsy was written. The undersigned met with Dr. Evangelista on December 5, 2005 to review his report. The following information is derived from this written report and from the subsequent interview.
Dr. Evangelista noted five gunshot wounds to the body of Mr. Marrero, four of which appeared to be entrance wounds and the fifth appeared to be an exit wound. Dr. Evangelista labeled these five wounds as A-E, which are arbitrarily assigned letters.
Gunshot Wound A: This entrance wound was on the left mid upper back, 16 inches below the top of the head and 1 5/8 inches left of the posterior midline. The path of this bullet was from back to front, left to right and down to up. The bullet, after entering the body, perforated the right rib cage and entered the right lung. Within the lung was found two separate metallic projectiles. No exit wound was identified.
Gunshot Wound B: This entrance wound was on the right lateral back, 20 ½ inches below the top of the head and 7 3/8 inches right of the posterior midline. The path of this bullet was back to front, right to left and down to up. The bullet, after entering the body, perforated the liver, the right hemidiaphragm, the right side of the pericardium, the right side of the heart, the anterior pericardial cavity and the anterior aspect of the left rib cage. A metallic projectile was recovered from the tissue of the anterior left chest. No exit wound was identified.
Gunshot Wound C: This entrance wound was on the mid upper gluteal crease, 34 ½ inches below the top of the head and on the posterior midline. The path of this bullet was back to front, left to right and up to down. The bullet, after entering the body, traveled through the right buttock and perforated the right ischial tuberosity. A metallic projectile was recovered from the right upper thigh. No exit wound was identified.
Gunshot Wound D: This entrance wound was on the right bicep, located 21 1/4 inches from the tip of the right third finger. The path of the bullet was from back to front, right to left and up to down. The bullet, after entering the body, traveled through the soft tissue of the right arm and exited the body. No projectile was recovered along this wound path.
Gunshot Wound E: This exit wound was on the right bicep, located 18 3/4 inches from the tip of the right third finger. This is the exit gunshot wound corresponding to the entrance gunshot wound D.
Blood from Mr. Marrero was recovered during autopsy and analyzed by Dr. Sherwood Lewis, a toxicologist. He documented his findings in a written report. This report states that the blood was analyzed for the presence of ethanol and certain other drugs. These tests detected the presence of caffeine. No other drugs or alcohol were detected.
Dr. Evangelista concluded that the cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of death was homicide. That Dr. Evangelista stated that it was not possible, based on the autopsy, to determine the chronological order of wounds suffered by Mr. Marrero. It was also not possible to determine the location of the shooter or shooters responsible for the four bullet wounds identified. This is because the precise positions of Mr. Marrero when each bullet entered his body are unknown.
The State Police Forensic Laboratory was asked to examine certain evidence seized in connection with this investigation and perform appropriate tests. The following is a summary of the tests and the test results:
(1) The two knives recovered at the scene, the screwdriver recovered from the clothing of Mr. Marrero at Yale-New Haven Hospital and the disposable lighter recovered at the scene were processed for identifiable latent impressions. There were no identifiable latent prints developed or found on the submitted evidence.
(2) The laboratory also examined the shirt and pants that Mr. Marrero was wearing at the time he was shot. Blood-like stains were located on the shirt. Cuts and tears, consistent with being caused by emergency medical personnel were located on this shirt. Three holes were located in the back central area and back left sleeve of this shirt. Several holes were located in the front right sleeve and front lower right area of this shirt. Microscopic examination of the holes found on the shirt of Mr. Marrero failed to reveal any gunpowder-like particles.
The blue jeans being worn by Mr. Marrero were also examined by the laboratory. Blood-like stains were located on the pants. Cuts and tears, again consistent with being caused by emergency medical personnel, were located on these pants. Several holes were located in the front and back of these pants. Microscopic examination of the holes in the pants failed to reveal any gunpowder-like particles.
The 9mm Glock pistol, which was Officer Lawlor’s duty weapon, was test fired by the laboratory into a fabric similar to that of the examined shirt and into a material similar to that of the examined pants of Mr. Marrero. Based on the known test patterns of the fabric similar to the examined shirt, the majority of gunpowder/nitrate particles were absent after four feet. Based on the known test patterns of the fabric similar to the examined pants, the majority of gunpowder/nitrate particles were absent after five feet.
(3) The firearms section of the Forensic Laboratory also examined the three firearms assigned to Officers Lawlor, Tennant and Runlett, the ten discharged casings found at the scene and 11 bullet or bullet fragments seized at the scene of the shooting or recovered from the body of Mr. Marrero.
The laboratory examination revealed that of the ten discharged casings, four were fired from the handgun of Officer Lawlor, three were fired from the handgun of Officer Tennant and three were fired from the handgun of Officer Runlett.
The laboratory examination also revealed that of the eleven bullet or bullet fragments seized, seven were consistent with being fired in a Glock style 9mm caliber pistol with polygonal rifling characteristics. Because of either damage or lack of rifling striae, none of these bullet or bullet fragments could be positively identified as having been fired by any of the three handguns submitted. The remaining four bullet fragments submitted could not be further identified.
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, that belief must be objectively reasonable. See State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, cert. den. 262 Conn 923 (2002).
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 that 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 the 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 490 386 (1989).
Based on the review of the investigation the undersigned makes the following findings of fact:
Hiram Marrero was living at 991 Ella Grasso Boulevard, Apartment No. 12, which he rented from Continuum of Care, a non-profit agency that provides help for the mentally ill. His apartment was located within an apartment complex located at the corner of Ella Grasso Boulevard and Legion Boulevard. He had a roommate named James Grzywacz.
Mr. Marrero, in the week prior to the shooting, had been acting very agitated. This agitation was apparently the result of some problems with his roommate over utility bills. On the afternoon of December 16, 2004, the day of the shooting, the staff of Continuum of Care became concerned that Mr. Marrero was delusional and psychotic and therefore contacted 911, requesting assistance. Two staff members, Mr. Corcoran and Mr. Hall, went to Mr. Marrero’s apartment, motivated, at least in part, by concerns for the physical safety of Mr. Grzywacz. Upon arriving at the apartment, the two staff members entered the apartment and observed the two roommates.
Mr. Marrero rushed at Mr. Grzywacz, spraying an aerosol can in his face. Mr. Grzywacz responded by throwing a bowl at Mr. Marrero. Mr. Corcoran, to stop this fight, then attempted to get between the two men. Mr. Marrero, holding a knife in his hand, swung it at the abdomen of Mr. Corcoran. Mr. Corcoran was stabbed by Mr. Marrero, causing a superficial wound. The three men, Mr. Corcoran, Mr. Hall and Mr. Grzywacz then left the apartment. Mr. Marrero remained alone in the apartment. While alone in the apartment Mr. Marrero, using a hammer, caused extensive damage to belongings of Mr. Grzywacz, which had been in his bedroom.
As the three men exited the apartment building they encountered New Haven firefighters, who were responding to the 911 call. The firefighters learned that Mr. Marrero was armed, which caused them to call for police back-up. Soon thereafter members of the New Haven Police Department began to arrive on the scene. These police officers were informed that Mr. Marrero was armed and that he had already stabbed one person. Two of the arriving officers, Lawlor and Runlett, entered the apartment building from the front door and ascended a staircase to the second floor apartment of Mr. Marrero. Three other officers, Tennant, Diaz and McArthur, went around to the back of the apartment building.
At the approximate time that the five officers were arriving at the scene, Mr. Marrero exited his apartment via the rear door onto a second story deck. He was armed with three kitchen knives that he had obtained from a knife block within the kitchen of his apartment and also a screwdriver. One knife he held in his hand, a second knife was secreted in his right sock and a third knife and the screwdriver were secreted in his clothing. As Officers Tennant, Diaz and McArthur arrived at the rear of the building, Mr. Marrero was standing on the back deck waving a knife. The officers repeatedly ordered Mr. Marrero to drop the knife but he did not comply. The three officers drew their handguns.
Mr. Marrero then began to descend the staircase leading to the ground. He continued to wave the knife about and ignore police commands to drop the knife. At approximately the same time, Officers Lawlor and Runlett entered the apartment of Mr. Marrero by kicking in the front door. Upon entering the apartment they traveled through the apartment and stepped onto the back deck. By the time they stepped onto the back deck, Officers Lawlor and Runlett had drawn their handguns. Mr. Marrero, as he descended the stairs, threw the knife he held in his hand in the direction of the three police officers on the ground. Two of the officers on the ground, Officers McArthur and Tennant, holstered their weapons, then began to approach Mr. Marrero, intending to handcuff him. As they approached him, Mr. Marrero reached down and took out the knife hidden in his sock. Mr. Marrero then stood up, with the knife in his hand. Moments later shots rang out and Mr. Marrero was mortally wounded.
A total of ten shots were fired at Mr. Marrero by three officers. Officer Tennant standing on the ground fired his weapon three times at Mr. Marrero, Officer Lawlor standing on the second floor deck fired four times at Mr. Marrero, and Officer Runlett, also standing on the second floor deck, fired three shots at Mr. Marrero. Mr. Marrero was struck by four bullets, with six other bullets missing him. Four bullet strikes were observed at the scene, two in the railing of the stairs and two in the apartment building. Three bullets were recovered from the body of Mr. Marrero and nine other bullets or bullet fragments were recovered from the scene. Although the State Forensic Laboratory examined all of the bullets and bullet fragments, it was not possible to scientifically match the bullet or bullet fragments to any particular gun. The autopsy did not provide evidence as to which handgun fired the bullets found in Mr. Marrero. Therefore, it is unknown which officer or officers actually shot Mr. Marrero.
Officer Tennant stated that he fired his weapon to prevent Mr. Marrero from stabbing him. Officers Lawlor and Runlett said that they fired their weapons to protect the life of Officer Tennant. These two officers did not claim that they themselves were in danger of imminent serious physical injury.
The four bullet wounds suffered by Mr. Marrero traveled from the back of his body to the front. Because it is not possible to determine which officer or officers shot Mr. Marrero or the chronological order of the infliction of the wounds, the location of the wounds is of limited significance. As Mr. Marrero had descended from the deck using the outside stairs, it would be expected that the two officers shooting from the deck, would be facing the back of Mr. Marrero. Because the justification of these officers to shoot at Mr. Marrero was the protection of Officer Tennant, the position of these officers is not relevant in determining whether they were justified in shooting at Mr. Marrero.
A number of the witnesses gave statements in which they provided information relevant to the determination of the estimated distance between Mr. Marrero and Officer Tennant at the time the shooting occurred. From the totality of the information provided, including the forensic reports, it is not possible to determine the precise distance separating the individuals. The various witnesses accounts contain significant discrepancies. These discrepancies are not surprising, given the traumatic events and the fluidity of the situation. Given all of the information, I conclude that Mr. Marrero was most likely between 5-15 feet away from Officer Tennant at the time the shooting occurred.
Mr. Marrero, at the time of the shooting, was armed with a knife, which he was holding in a threatening manner. The officers were aware that Mr. Marrero had already stabbed one individual. His actions in taking a second knife from his sock as the police approached, after being told to drop the knife he previously held, would reasonably be seen by the officers as an aggressive act. A reasonable conclusion would be that he intended to use the knife against Officers Tennant and McArthur to inflict serious physical injury or death. Given the distance between Mr. Marrero and Officers Tennant and McArthur, as well as the physical lay-out of the back of the apartment building, Mr. Marrero was in a position to use deadly physical force against Officers Tennant and McArthur. The officers, pursuant to Section 53a-22(c) of the General Statutes, were thus justified in using deadly physical force upon Mr. Marrero.
No further action by the Division of Criminal Justice is expected.
Scott J. Murphy
Judicial District of New Britain
(1) On the evening of December 16, 2004, the State Police were advised by the New Haven Police Union president and the Union’s staff attorney that none of the officers involved would be available for interviews at that time. The State Police were further advised that any decision of whether to give statements would be made after the officers consulted with union representatives and their attorneys. The State Police were later advised by letter that each officer had sought legal representation and would be providing a statement.