Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia/Milford Concerning the Shooting Death of Dennis Kissel by the Seymour Police on June 4, 2004, Issued Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a.
November 10, 2005
I. Circumstances of Incident
On June 4, 2005, at approximately 10:00 a.m., the Seymour Optometric Center, located at 25 New Haven Road, Seymour, received a telephone inquiry regarding Dr. Tzepos’ schedule for the day. The caller identified himself as John Steeves and complained of having sawdust in his eye. Steeves was told that the doctor would be in from noon on, but he did not make an appointment.
At approximately 4:30 p.m., a male, identifying himself as John Steeves, reported he had a problem with his eye and had called earlier in the day. According to the receptionist, he appeared to be confused . When Dr. Tzepos met this patient in the examination room, he immediately recognized him as Dr. Dennis Kissel, an optometrist from Oxford, and greeted him as such. As Dr. Tzepos inquired of Kissel the reason for his visit, Kissel pulled out a handgun and shot Tzepos twice in the head before a struggled ensued leading to a third shot. Upon hearing the shots and Tzepos yelling to call 911, Kim Chernecky, Tzepos’ assistant, called the Seymour Police. Tzepos, with Chernecky’s help, wrestled the gun away from Kissel and exited the examination room. Chernecky held the door closed in an attempt to keep Kissel confined to the examination room.
Seymour Police Chief Michael Metzler and Patrolman Patrick Giglio arrived at the Seymour Optometric Center at the same time. They entered the building through the front door and proceeded to search the building from opposite directions. Giglio observed Tzepos in the reception area bleeding and at the same time heard Chernecky frantically call to him from her location. Chernecky was still holding the door of the examination room which held Kissel. Giglio approached the room with his weapon drawn and assumed a position in front of the examination room door. While in that position, Metzler approached from Giglio’s right and asked him for his police radio. With the door still closed, Giglio yelled "police" "get down on the floor." Hearing no response, Giglio kicked the door open and observed Kissel in a combat stance with both hands on a weapon at chest level. Giglio responded by yelling "Freeze," at which point Kissel lunged toward Giglio. Giglio responded by firing one round striking Kissel. After this confrontation, the door of the examination room closed.
With the assistance of other Seymour police officers, Giglio kicked the examination room door open once again and found Kissel lying on the floor. Kissel was lying on his back with legs bent at the knees and his legs under his body. Kissel’s arms were up and his hands clenched with an object in his left hand. Giglio removed the object from Kissel’s hand and placed it on the floor. Giglio described it as a "needle pointed object with a dark-colored handle." The weapon was determined to be a "Charmant" brand optometrist Phillips head screwdriver.
Kissel was transported to Griffin Hospital by Seymour Emergency Medical Service where he was pronounced dead at 6:00 p.m.. The Medical Examiner determined the cause of Kissel’s death to be a gunshot wound to the chest. Dr. Tzepos was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital and treated for gunshot wounds to the head and a lacerated finger. He was treated and released on June 5, 2004.
The investigation and processing of the scene was conducted by the Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad with assistance from the Department of Public Safety Division of Scientific Services Forensic Science Laboratory. The gun used by Kissel was a .38 caliber five shot revolver which was recovered at the scene. Due to the age of the weapon a trace failed to produce any registered owner. Relatives of Kissel stated that they believed the gun was from a farm once owned by Kissel’s father.
Dr. Tzepos was interviewed about possible motives for the attack. He knew of none, but did state that Kissel had talked to him several months earlier about merging their practices. Dr. Tzepos was not interested in a merger. Investigation has revealed no other evidence of any motive or reason for the bizarre and tragic events of June 4, 2004.
II. Use of Deadly Force
Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Section 53a-22 (c) "a peace officer ... is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person ... only when he reasonably believes such to be necessary to; (1) defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force ...."
Based on a review of the above facts, the Officer’s actions were reasonable and appropriate to ensure his own safety and that of others in close proximity to him. This statutory review is circumscribed by the statute and its scope is limited to the statutory mandate. This review cannot answer all questions, including the absence of an apparent motive for Dr. Kissel’s conduct.
In conclusion, it is clear that the officers conduct was reasonable and appropriate to ensure his own safety pursuant to Section 53a-22. There is no recommendation for any future action to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of this incident at this time.