Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford Concerning the Shooting Death of John R. Zipoli in Hartford on May 25, 2004, Issued Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a
April 15, 2005
A. Circumstances of Incident
On May 25, 2004, at 5:14 p.m., a team of Hartford Police Detectives from the Vice and Narcotics Division, accompanied by FBI Special Agent Robert Borenstein., arrived at 461 Zion Street, Apt. 1N, Hartford, to execute a search and seizure warrant. The detectives and agent were dressed in plain clothing but were wearing protective body armor clearly marked with the word "POLICE" in large, bold letters on both the front and back. The team divided into two groups, some went to the rear of the building and others prepared to enter the apartment from the front.
The entry team knocked on the door of apartment 1N and announced "Police Search Warrant!" After receiving no response, Detective Nestor Caraballo utilized a ram to force entry into the apartment. As the detectives began to enter, someone from inside fired a shotgun at the officers, striking Detective Caraballo with pellets and/or debris. As Caraballo stumbled backward, Detective Jose Santiago entered the apartment and observed an occupant, later identified as John Zipoli, firing a shotgun at him. Santiago was struck by the shot and immediately went to the floor while firing at Zipoli. Zipoli, apparently struck by one of Santiago’s rounds, went to the floor in a sitting position. Despite being ordered by Santiago to drop the weapon, Zipoli again fired the weapon at Detective Santiago and Detective Edward Foster, who had now entered the apartment. Both Santiago and Foster fired numerous rounds at Zipoli. Again the officers demanded that Zipoli drop his weapon but Zipoli fired his fourth, and last, round at the officers. Once again the officers returned fire and now Zipoli, still in possession of the shotgun, crawled down a hallway in the apartment. Other Detectives entered the apartment at that point, subdued Zipoli, who was now injured, and secured a Mossberg pump-action shotgun.
Detectives Caraballo and Santiago were taken to the hospital for treatment. Santiago was treated for a wound to his left side. Apparently, the ballistic vest stopped the bullet. Detective Caraballo was also treated for wounds to his arms, right leg and face. Both detectives were subsequently released from the hospital.
John Zipoli was also transported to Hartford Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 5:33 p.m. An autopsy at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner revealed that Zipoli died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.
B. Use of Deadly Force
The officers were involved in lawfully executing a search warrant and were attired in a fashion which clearly indicated who they were. They announced their purpose and forced the door to the apartment when they received no response. Despite a claim by one of the residents of the apartment that they were unaware that there were police officers present, a visitor to the apartment, who apparently was not involved in any criminal activity associated with the premises, confirmed that the officers properly identified themselves upon entry to the apartment. There is clear evidence that the deceased discharged his shotgun with knowledge of the officer’s presence and purpose. (In fact, before losing consciousness, the deceased apologized to the officers.) During the confrontation, Mr. Zipoli was ordered to drop his weapon but continued to fire on the officers. That decision, ultimately, cost him his life.
Under the circumstances detailed herein, the use of deadly force by Officers Edward Foster and Jose Santiago was justified under CGS §53a-22 and there appear no grounds for criminal prosecution. This report is meant only to address that issue.
C. Further Action by Division of Criminal Justice
Inspectors from this office and the undersigned responded to the scene of the shooting. One of the Inspectors later participated in a re-enactment of the incident. Based upon his observations and the report of the thorough investigation furnished by the Hartford Police Department, there are no grounds for further action by the Division.
James E. Thomas