Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield Concerning the Shooting Death of Jonathan Mosely in Bridgeport on September 28, 2004, Submitted Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a.
Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield Concerning the Shooting Death of Jonathan Mosely in Bridgeport on September 28, 2004, Submitted Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a
April 12, 2005
On September 28, 2004, at approximately 8:20 p.m., Jonathan Mosely, forty-one years of age, was fatally shot by members of the Bridgeport Police Department. Pursuant to statewide protocols, the scene was immediately taped off, a representative of the State’s Attorney’s Office was summoned, and the Connecticut State Police Major Crime Squad, Central District, was called in. That unit conducted the balance of the police investigation to include, amongst other things, the immediate crime scene investigation, the interview of all civilian witnesses and the canvassing of the area. The autopsy was conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and all forensic testing was performed by the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory.
Police involvement began with a 911 call made to Bridgeport Police Headquarters at 8:13 p.m. The call reported a domestic incident between Jonathan Mosely, the decedent, and a former girlfriend and male companion at the woman’s apartment building at 1535 Central Avenue, Bridgeport. Mr. Mosely had, in 1983, been prosecuted for the murder of an earlier girlfriend. That case had eventually been disposed of on a charge of Manslaughter in the First Degree for which Mr. Mosely received and served a twelve-year sentence in state prison.
The person who made the 911 call was Queta G. Swinton, the former girlfriend. In subsequent interviews by investigators, she related the following: At the time of the incident she and a companion, Melvin Johnson, were in her apartment (no. 105), which was located on the second floor of a four-story building. She had dated Mr. Mosely for approximately three years before breaking up with him several months earlier. The reason for the break-up had been Mosely’s physically abusive conduct toward her. This conduct had caused her to secure protective orders against Mosely which he had violated, and for which she had, in turn, had him arrested, as recently as several weeks earlier.
Ms. Swinton’s contact with Mosely on September 28 began in the morning with a series of telephone calls which Swinton recognized through caller ID as coming from Mosely and, consequently, refused to answer. These calls totaled approximately thirty and continued into the evening. At approximately 8:00 p.m. Swinton and Johnson were in apartment no. 105 when they heard a knock at the door. Swinton peered through a peephole in the door and recognized Mosely who demanded entry. Swinton refused and asked Mosely to leave lest she have to summon the police and have the latter arrested. With this, Mosely, who sounded intoxicated to Swinton, began to yell and bang on the door with something that sounded much harder than a mere fist. When Swinton repeated that she was going to summon the police, Mosely responded "Call them, I’m going to make them shoot me ... I’m going to make them kill me."
Mosely continued to bang on the door, to the point where Swinton and Johnson noticed it begin to crack. Mr. Johnson then dialed the 911 call to police headquarters and gave the phone to Swinton. Expressing the urgency of the situation, she informed the dispatcher that her ex-boyfriend was attempting to kick her door in, and that there was a protective order against him and asked that police be dispatched to the scene. Within minutes the couple were informed that officers were on hand but couldn’t gain entry into the building’s lobby. When asked to go to the main door and admit the police, both abjectly refused for the obvious reason that Mosely remained , still yelling and banging, on the other side of the apartment door. The next thing Swinton heard was voices repeating "Put it down, put it down ... drop it!." and then a series of gunshots. Police officers then requested entry to the apartment and, on being admitted, ordered Swinton and Johnson to the floor and proceeded to search the apartment for other possible intruders.
Melvin Johnson had been dating Ms. Swinton for several weeks as of September 28, and was aware of her past history with Mosely. He first heard knocks at the door to apartment 105 at approximately 8:00 p.m. As the knocks grew louder he and Swinton maintained silence in hopes that Mosely would leave. After Mosely yelled "I’m going to get you and Mugsy" (Johnson’s nickname), Johnson dialed 911 and gave the phone to Swinton to speak. He then went to the door and yelled to Mosely that the police were coming. Mosely responded, "They just got to kill me." As Mosely continued to yell ‘wild and crazy’ and bang on the door, Johnson saw it begin to crack. At this point, he grabbed the telephone and called 911 to express the urgency of the situation and, as had Swinton, told the dispatcher that there was no way he could get to the lobby door to let officers in. He next heard voices ordering "Put it down" and "Drop it," followed by a series of gunshots. Johnson expressed the opinion that he was scared for his life and that the police did everything right in a situation where Mosely was bent on causing serious injury.
The series of calls to and from the Bridgeport Police Department’s CAD Center (911 calls) have been preserved. They corroborate the statements of Ms. Swinton and Mr. Johnson and palpably demonstrate the genuine fear felt by both. They also clearly record the sound of both Mosely’s yelling and beating on the door from outside the apartment.
Six Bridgeport police officers were present in the second-floor hallway of 1535 Central Avenue when Jonathan Mosely was fatally shot. They all responded to the initial CAD dispatch of a domestic disturbance at apartment no. 105 where an ex-boyfriend was reportedly attempting to kick the apartment door in. The officers arrived at the location in pairs in their respective patrol vehicles. The first to arrive were Patrolmen David Uliano and Jason Amato. They were immediately joined by Officers Adam Roscoe and Damien Czech and then James Geremia and Sean Lynch. Upon arrival, they were unable to gain access into the lobby of the building. While they were trying to arrange entry via police radio call to CAD, an unidentified woman opened the door and departed the area.
The officers then took the east elevator to the second floor and proceeded to the hallway where the disturbance was reported to be occurring. At this point they had no knowledge that there was any type of weapon involved and all police weapons were holstered. As the hallway was only five feet wide, the officers were forced to walk two abreast. Officer Uliano proceeded down the left side, followed closely by Lynch and then Geremia. On the right were Amato, then Czech and Roscoe. When they entered the one-hundred-sixty foot long hallway they observed, about two thirds of the way down, a male (later identified as Mosely), naked above the waist and seated on the floor opposite the door of apartment no. 105. At the far end of the hall, knocking the door of apartment no. 106, was another male, subsequently identified as Peter Bertolini.
When Mosely noticed the officers approaching, he got to his feet, turned, and took a few steps away from the police. He then stopped and pivoted one hundred and eighty degrees. In the course of these movements, the officers noticed Mosely holding a long dark brown object in his left hand. Officer Czech initially made the observation that it was a rifle but, as Mosely faced the officers and raised the object above his head, all realized it was a baseball bat. Mosely then yelled "F___ this, you’re going to have to kill me!", and, now only thirty feet away from Uliano and Amato, proceeded to sprint toward the police. Each officer drew his weapon and they collectively ordered Mosely to stop and drop the bat. Instead of complying, he continued full speed, yelling "Kill me, shoot me motherf____ers!"
In the last ten feet between Mosely and the police, the hallway was divided in the center by a doorpost. This forced him to veer, swinging the bat above his head, to his right toward Officer Uliano who was the foremost of the group. At this point, with mere feet and no time to spare, Officers Amato, Czech and Lynch fired their weapons, striking Mosely numerous times and causing him to collapse at the door of apartment no. 103, by feet of Amato. Because of the crowded circumstances, Officers Uliano, Geremia and Roscoe were not able to fire. Uliano immediately responded to aid Mosely who expired after a few gasps. The officers had observed the second male, who was farther down the hallway, duck into apartment no. 106 after Mosely began his run.
On the evening of September 28, Peter Bertolini, an employee of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health, was attending to a client in apartment no. 106 which is situated one door to the west of apartment no. 105. At approximately 8:10 p.m., he heard loud banging noises coming from the hallway together with a male voice yelling, "Queta ..., you really did it now!" Bertolini stepped into the hallway to see what was going on and observed Mosely, standing at the door to apartment no. 105, naked from the waist up and holding a baseball bat. Next, when police sirens sounded, Bertolini heard Mosely yell, "You really did it now ..., they’re not going to get me."
When five to six uniformed police officers shortly appeared at the east end of the hallway, Bertolini saw Mosely stand up and raise the bat in the air. To this, the approaching officers repeatedly directed Mosely to put the bat down. When Mosely began running and yelling at the police, they drew their weapons. At the point where Mosely was mere feet from the police, Bertolini, realizing his own precarious situation, ducked back into apartment no. 106, from where he heard a number of gunshots. Bertolini expressed the opinion that, under the circumstances, the officers had no option but to shoot Mosely.
The State police subsequently canvassed the residents of the apartment building. In the course of this, they interviewed two persons who were in apartment no. 107 during the domestic incident. Jamar Bolden left his apartment just before the police gained entry to the building. As he passed the hallway, he observed a male, naked from the waist up, at the doorway to apartment no. 105. He heard the male yell something to the effect of, "They’re going to have to come and get me...., I have something for them." Bolden’s mother, Xiomara Feliciano, never left her apartment but heard a man yelling, "Look what you did to me! They’re coming for me!" Just before she heard the sound of gunshots she heard the same male yell, "F______ police!" Further canvassing of 1535 Central Avenue turned up no further information other than a few residents who had heard banging and unintelligible yelling followed by gunshots.
The six officers service weapons were examined at the scene where it was determined that Ptl. Amato and Czech had both fired three rounds and Lynch five for a total of eleven. The other three officers did not fire their weapons. In the hallway, eleven spent casings were found, all within a relatively confined group between the doors of apartments no. 102 and 103. Also a number of spent bullets and bullet fragments were collected from a point beginning next to Mosely’s body and ranging further down the hallway. At the door of apartment no. 105, where Mosely had first been observed, were a broken knife, a clear plastic glove, a jacket, and two shirts. Next to Mosely’s body was a 29 inch wooden baseball bat.
Firearms examinations determined, to the extent possible, given the condition of the evidence, that all casings and recovered bullets and fragments had been fired from the weapons of Officers Amato, Czech, and Lynch. While it is impossible to specify which officer inflicted each of the wounds received by Mosely, it appears that at least one round fired by each of the three struck a vital area. Testings made with police department service weapons and ammunition and Mosely’s sweatpants indicate that his distance from the muzzles of the weapons fired in this incident was greater than four feet.
The baseball bat had no identifiable fingerprints. It did have, on the barrel, blue paint which matched the blue paint of the door to apartment no. 105. That door also had several deep indentations comparable to the contours of the baseball bat’s barrel.
An autopsy was conducted on September 29 by Dr. Ira Kanfer of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. He found seven distinct bullet entry wounds all to the front of Mosely’s body and ranging from the thigh upwards to the head. The cause of death was determined to be multiple gunshot wounds. Recovered in the autopsy were a number of bullets and fragments which were taken for the further comparisons related hereinabove. Additional samples were taken for toxicological analysis.
It was determined that, at the time of his death, Mosely had a blood alcohol level of 0.21% which is more than two and one half times the legal limit in Connecticut. Also found in samples of his blood was evidence of cocaine.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22 authorizes the use of deadly physical force by a police officer under certain circumstances. Section 53a-22(c) provides, in pertinent part:
(c) A peace officer or authorized official of the Department of Correction 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.
The United States Supreme Court has sanctioned the use of fatal force in such situations and found the use of such force to be reasonable. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985) That Court has further indicated that 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;** see Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989), where the Court also noted that the calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that the police officers often are forced to make split second judgments- in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving - about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. Supra, p. 396-397
It should first be noted that this is not a mere matter where a police officer’s statement stands by itself. All six officers here presented consistent accounts. They are corroborated by the entire investigation; first by five eye/ear independent civilian witnesses as well as the CAD recording of the 911 calls. Further corroboration is provided by the forensics, by the autopsy protocol, and significantly, by the analyses that demonstrate Mr. Mosely’s substance abuse on the night in question.
Domestic disturbances often constitute the most volatile and dangerous situations to which police officers can be required to respond. What the officers in the instant matter were aware of, upon gaining entry to 1535 Central Avenue, was that an ex-boyfriend was attempting to kick his former girlfriend’s apartment door in and that , there being a protective order in place, there was a history of domestic violence. A concerted police response was clearly mandated. When the officers turned the corner into the second floor hallway, they were immediately and without warning confronted with a crazed sprint by a highly intoxicated (by both alcohol and cocaine) individual who was swinging a baseball bat. He was yelling that they were going to have to kill him, which was a thought that the civilian witnesses had also heard him express. The officers did everything they could in the mere seconds the circumstances permitted to diffuse the situation. Only when Mr. Mosely was a step or two from being able to strike Officer Uliano did any officer fire.
Based upon the facts and the applicable law, it is concluded that the use of deadly physical force in causing the death of Jonathan Mosely on September 28, 2004 was reasonable and justified pursuant to Section 53a-22 of the Connecticut General Statutes. The officers were confronted by a man who was about to swing a baseball bat at the head of one of their group. Such conduct clearly is capable of inflicting a fatal injury. Moreover, Mr. Mosely gave the officers no opportunity to safely withdraw, nor would that have been permissible given the ongoing threat to the occupants of apartment no. 105.
No further action is recommended.
Although, as noted above, the use of hindsight is inappropriate to an inquiry of this nature and played absolutely no part in the conclusion herein, some common questions inevitably arise:
1.) Why eleven shots? It should be noted that each of the officers who actually fired here was using a semi-automatic weapon and actually fired a minimal (three to five) number of rounds. Under the circumstances presented, there was clearly no opportunity to assign a "designated shooter," nor is it easy to envision a situation where that would be appropriate. What each officer did was expend the minimum number of rounds that appeared to be reasonably necessary to stop Mr. Mosely’s charge.
2.) Why not simply withdraw from the hallway and await an alternative approach to the situation? In addition to protecting themselves, the officers were also obligated to protect the occupants of apartment no. 105, whose frantic 911 calls brought the police to the scene in the first place. Once on site, the officers were immediately confronted by an individual in a highly agitated state who was rushing them while swinging an upraised baseball bat.
3.) Why not simply shoot to wound? First, the proximity (one or two paces?) and momentum of Mosely at the point where the police fired, made pinpoint shooting impossible. More importantly, such a strategy is universally (and appropriately) frowned upon in law enforcement. Attempts to shoot to wound or injure are unrealistic and because of high-miss rates and poor stopping effectiveness, can prove dangerous for both police officers and the people they’re trying to protect. International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Law Enforcement Policy Center; Use of Force, Concepts and Issue Paper, February 1,, 1989. p.4.
4.) Why not use less deadly force? Two lesser alternatives come to mind. This writer’s experience in reviewing the use of chemical sprays has shown the use of substances such as Mace in such a highly charged situation as here, particularly where the subject was highly intoxicated, not to mention also under the influence of cocaine, to be of such little value as to border on negligence on the part of the police. The other alternative, Taser guns is also highly problematic. First, under the circumstances presented here, it would have been essentially impossible to safely get a Taser charge within the span of Mosely’s swinging baseball bat. Secondly, with a reported seventy-four deaths in the U.S. and Canada since the adoption of the technology by some agencies, its use has become highly questionable. From Zap to ZZZZZ; Time Magazine, 3/28/05, p.43
Jonathan C. Benedict
Judicial District of Fairfield