Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield concerning the death of Raylyn George in Bridgeport on August 25, 2005.
Investigation | Cause of Death/Autopsy | Involved Officer | Civilian Witnesses | Police Witnesses - Bridgeport Police Department | Conduct of Raylyn George | Scene Investigation/Forensics | Conclusion | Recommendations
This report pertains to an investigation, conducted under the direction of the undersigned, pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Sec 51-277a. Such an investigation is mandated "whenever a peace officer, in the performance of his duties, uses deadly physical force upon another person and such person dies as a result thereof." While the ultimate finding here is that no peace officer, in fact, caused the death of another person, it is the undersigned’s position that the initial appearance or possibility of such a circumstance requires an investigation regardless.
On August 25, 2005, at approximately 3:15 PM, a telephone call from a confidential informant was received at the Bridgeport Police Department Tactical and Narcotics Team (TNT) office to the effect that there were approximately seven black males, all carrying firearms, hanging out in the area of Building 23, Marina Village. The available TNT officers proceeded to the Westside Precinct Headquarters, conducted a strategy briefing with patrol officers, and continued as a group to Marina Village. All were wearing clearly identifiable Bridgeport Police uniforms. Once at their destination, the police response immediately developed into several separate foot pursuits. One of these chases culminated in the fatal shooting of Raylyn George, age 24, in the rear yard of No 103/105 Park Terrace at approximately 4:00PM.
Pursuant to this Judicial District’s established protocol, the Bridgeport Police Department’s participation was limited to cordoning off the scene and taking the names of potential witnesses pending the arrival of representatives of the State’s Attorney’s Office and State Police personnel, all of whom arrived within minutes of the incident. The swiftness of this response was made possible by the time of day and the proximity of the scene to Troop G and the State’s Attorney’s office. All further investigation was conducted under the direction of the State’s Attorney, by the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the State Forensic Science Laboratory. With the exception of the involved officer, virtually all interviews were conducted during the evening of August 25 and on the morning of August 26. Forensic efforts were conducted as the investigation proceeded.
Mr. George was transported from the scene to St. Vincent’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 4:45 PM. His body was transported to the medical examiners facility in Farmington where an autopsy was begun by Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver at 10:35AM, August 26. This was prior to the availability of scene investigation report, witness’ interviews, or forensic testing results.
On external examination, Dr. Carver found two through and through gunshot wounds. The lesser of the two consisted of an entry wound located five and one-half inches above the right kneecap on the outside of the thigh and an exit wound through the kneecap. Dr. Carver is of the opinion that this type of injury would cause the right leg to immediately collapse and make it impossible to run or walk.
The second (and fatal) gunshot injury was more remarkable. It presented an entry wound one and three-fourths of an inch above and to the rear of the right ear. The wound tract proceeded forward and upward and to the left, exiting above the left eye and just inside the hairline. The wound was of a nature to cause immediate unconsciousness and collapse. Surrounding the entry wound was a pattern of stippling abrasion indicative of a close range shot. Forensic testing demonstrated that, at the time of infliction of this injury, the muzzle of the fired weapon would have been approximately three inches from the point of entry. The wound tract, or angle of trajectory, given a person of Mr. George’s age and apparent health, was within a range of motion consistent with having been capable of self infliction.
When subsequently presented with additional information, Dr. Carver was of the opinion that, in view of the relative debilitating natures of the two injuries, if self-inflicted, the leg wound would, of necessity, have been inflicted first.
The police officer with the closest contact to the death of Raylyn George was P/O Luis Batista, a twenty-two year veteran assigned, at the time of this incident, to the Tactical and Narcotics Team (TNT). In his statement, provided on September 1, Batista reported that he responded to Marina Village from the Westside Precinct with the rest of the task force. Accompanied in an unmarked police vehicle by P/O Robert Simpson (but wearing clearly identifiable police uniforms), he observed three black males standing in the vicinity of Buildings 30 and 31 on Ridge Avenue. Exiting their vehicle, and with sidearms drawn, the officers ordered the three to get on the ground. Two did; the third, eventually identified as Raylyn George, raised his hands and ran West up Ridge in the direction of Columbia Street. Batista took chase, ordering George to stop. George, instead, continued running with his hands still in the air to Columbia where he turned right (South), and proceeded a short distance to the next intersection, turning left (West) onto Park Terrace.
Still pursued by Batista, George proceeded on Park Terrace as far as No.103/105, the second building on the right side. There, George stopped and, keeping his left hand upraised, reached into his waistband with his right hand, and removed a black handgun which he threw upwards and which landed to his right. As Batista walked towards George, the latter moved to his right, retrieved the pistol and aimed it at the officer. Batista advancing, fired three times as George fled out of view, in a southerly direction along the west side of No.103/105. When Batista got to the corner of No.103/105, George was not in sight. As the officer proceeded along the side of the house he heard the sound of gunshots coming from the back yard.
On getting to the back yard, Batista observed George on the ground, slumped with his back leaning against a four foot chain link fence that bordered the East side of the property. George was bleeding from the head and, laying between his right hand and bent right leg was a semiautomatic pistol. At that point , having been directed by arriving officers, he kicked the pistol from George’s reach with the toe of his shoe. Officer Batista was transported to Bridgeport Hospital where his duty weapon, gunbelt and contents were taken into custody. He was next driven home where he surrendered the clothing he had been wearing and finally returned to headquarters to submit to a GSR test.
In addition to interviewing potential witnesses whose names were collected by the Bridgeport Police and State Police on August 26, the State Police, continued to comb the area, well into the spring of this year, for additional witnesses. While citizens are often reluctant to come forward, the police were successful in finding a number of persons who were able to provide first hand information. Further, the fact that the incident was to be investigated by the State’s Attorney’s Office and State Police was well publicized in its aftermath. In February of this year, this writer caused the State’s continuing interest in any additional relevant information to be made subject of local print and electronic media news items. When citizens concerned with the investigation subsequently delegated a representative to enquire of the undersigned as to the progress of the matter, the same invitation was extended. To date, no further information has been received. While many persons were interviewed, only the reports of those who were able to provide relevant information follow.
Witness No. 1, (*Follow this link to read the footnote) then a resident of Marina Village, is apparently the person who called in the sighting of "seven black males rolling blunts and showing off their guns." Shortly thereafter, three police officers approached the group from behind. When the latter noticed the police, most scattered, but two complied with the police order to get on the ground. Amongst the fleeing individuals was "Rayray" (Mr. George) who was pursued down Columbia Street by an officer wearing a TNT uniform (Batista). During this, one of the fleeing individuals, apparently not George, fired a single gunshot. Sgt Carl Leonzi, the raid supervisor, also observed this.
The witness followed the pursuit from a distance, observed "Rayray" turned toward the police officer and, she believes, fire several shots at the officer (Scene investigation demonstrates that it was the other way around). She then observed George run behind No. 105/103 Park Terrace from where she heard another gunshot.
Witnesses Nos. 2 and 3 are the aforementioned individuals who complied with the police order to get on the ground. They had been hanging out on Ridge Avenue smoking marijuana when they were joined by "Rayray." Shortly thereafter the police arrived, yelling "get down on the ground." The two did so, but "Raray" ran down Ridge pursued by an officer. After about thirty seconds they heard shots. While neither observed a weapon on George’s person, the latter was clothed in sweat pants and a size 4XXL shirt.
Witness No 4 was sitting in a location where he/she observed a black male run onto Park Terrace from Columbia Street, chased by a police officer. As the black male ran by, he/she did not see anything in his hands. Once on Park Terrace, the officer fired three shots at the fleeing individual who then ran behind No. 103/105 Park Terrace. The officer slowed down before himself proceeding toward the rear of the house.
Witness No. 5 at the time was in a home situated adjacent to No. 103/105. Between approximately 3:30 and 3:40PM, he was on the third floor of the home when he/she heard a number of gunshots that sounded as though they were coming from the area of Columbia Street. He/she ran down to the ground floor front entry where he/she observed a number of police officers coming from Columbia and yelling for everyone to stay indoors. He/she then went up to the second floor and through the house to the second story rear landing. He/she then looked down to the east side of the rear yard of No. 103/105 Park Terrace and saw a black male, with labored breath, sitting against the chain link fence with a black handgun "kind of in his right hand" He/she then saw a policeman approach the individual and kick the gun away.
The witness estimates that it took him/her about eight seconds to initially go from the third floor to the front door and then, when told to get inside, another thirty-two seconds to get to the second floor rear landing. He did not hear any shots from the back yard. These would, of necessity, have been fired as he was heading back upstairs and through to the rear of his home.
Witness No. 6 was also present in an adjoining home. He/she was indoors when he/she heard a number of gunshots which sounded to have come from in front of his/her home on Park Terrace.
The witness went to a rear porch where he/she saw a black male in the previously described position but with the handgun two to three feet from his right hand. He then saw two officers, a black male and a female approach the individual. These officers would have been P/O Simpson and Sgt Pribesh, see subsq.)
Witnesses No. 6 and 7 a husband and wife, were present in No.103/105 Park Terrace when they heard three or four gunshots coming from outside. The husband first went to his front door where he observed police running by. About two minutes later he looked out the back window and saw several police officers in the yard and an individual slumped with his back against the fence. His wife had actually been in a position to observe activity in the back yard but for the fact that she was recovering from a broken back and couldn’t change her position.
*The home of one witness was firebombed on the night of August 26, apparently because he/she had spoken to the police. Consequently his/her entire family was placed in witness protection. As a result, the names of all civilian witnesses are being withheld from this report which, it is expected, will become public.
V. Police Witnesses, Bridgeport Police Department
Sergeant Carl Leonzi was the supervisor of the joint detail that responded to the complaint of a number of armed black males. On arriving at Marina Village, he observed an initial group scatter and proceed on to where P/Os Batista and Simpson were detaining another three individuals. When one (George) took flight south on Ridge, chased by Batista, Leonzi began to assist Simpson with the remaining two (Witnesses Nos. 2 and 3) On hearing a single gun shot from the direction in which George and Batista had run, the Sergeant detailed Simpson to assist. He then heard a series of three or four gunshots and, subsequently, received a radio transmission from P/O Simpson that a party was down.
P/O Robert Simpson arrived on Ridge Avenue with P/O Batista. When one of three individuals who had been ordered to the ground instead fled down the street, Batista took chase. Simpson, assisted by Sgt. Leonzi, remained with the other two. On hearing gunshots from the direction of the chase, the officer ran to assist. As he neared the intersection of Ridge and Columbia, Simpson heard two more shots. On arriving at Park Terrace, he called to Batista who responded from a rear yard. Simpson then ran past No.103/105 and around to the rear of the next house (Nos 99/101) from where he observed Batista standing in the rear yard of Nos.103/105 between fifteen and twenty feet away from a black male who was sitting slumped against the chain link fence that ran along the east side of the property. There was a black handgun laying near the individuals right hand which Simpson told Batista to kick away.
Sergeant Melody Pribesh was the supervisor of the patrol contingent that assisted TNT on the complaint of armed males in Marina Village. On arrival, the Sergeant observed chases proceeding down Ridge Avenue and diverging both left and right at Columbia Street. As she followed to the right towards Park Terrace she heard multiple gunshots coming from that area. Next, after being momentarily detained by a report of activity on Gregory Street (the next intersection after Park Terrace), Pribesh heard additional gunshots ("more than one") coming from the Park Ter. area. She ran in that direction and then followed the sound of yelling to the rear of No.103/105. There, she observed Mr. George slumped against a fence bleeding heavily and labored in breath. A black semi-automatic handgun lay next to George’s right hand. She directed P/O Batista to approach George to kick the weapon away.
P/O Pasquale Speranza was turning onto Columbia Street in his patrol vehicle when he observed a TNT officer running east and chasing a male who repeatedly turned, looking back at the officer, and was holding both hands at his front waist band. As Speranza neared Park Terrace, he heard multiple gunshots. At the intersection, he exited his vehicle and took cover. From there he saw the pursued male run behind No. 103/105 Park Terrace, saw the TNT officer pause and then continue the chase, yelling "drop the weapon." Speranza could not recall whether he heard any additional shots.
P/O Christopher Martin was one of the responding patrolmen but was momentarily detained on a separate stop. After reaching Columbia Street, he parked his vehicle behind that of P/O Speranza. He then exited his car and began walking up Park Street when he heard one or two gunshots fired from somewhere to his right (e.g., the area of the rear of No. 103/105). He then overheard a radio transmission that caused him to reverse direction and run south on Columbia St toward Gregory St. This gave Martin a view into the rear yard of No.103/105 Park Terrace where he observed a TNT officer who he believed to be P/O Batista looking down at the ground.
VI. The Conduct of Raylyn George
The conduct of Mr. George was strongly indicative of a desperate desire not to be apprehended with a stolen firearm. He had, only six weeks earlier, completed a forty-five month state prison sentence. This would have been his eighth arrest. George’s conduct is commensurate with that of others who fled at the sight of police; one was observed firing a weapon as he ran up Ridge Avenue; another was apprehended for Possession of Cocaine With Intent to Sell. By contrast, Witnesses Nos. 2 and 3, who had nothing to hide and complied with the police demand to get on the ground, were briefly detained and released. Clearly Mr. George did everything he could to avoid capture, to the point of attempting to scale a four foot high fence while holding a locked and loaded handgun
VII. Scene Investigation/Forensics
Park Terrace was immediately cordoned off and protected. The State Police began to arrive within two or three minutes of the "person shot" call going out. The Major Crime Squad arrived shortly before 6:00PM. Nothing was disturbed in the interim other than P/O Batista kicking Mr. George’s handgun from beyond his reach and the evacuation of George by emergency personnel to St Vincent’s Hospital. Maintaining the integrity of the scene as much as possible, investigators first searched the scene, then photographed it and finally, collected evidence. They concluded at approximately 4:40 AM, August 26. They returned the next day and continued the search with metal detectors. A copy of the scene diagram is attached hereto
Firearms The firearms of all officers who had participated in the initial detail to Marina Village were inventoried. It was determined that no officer other than P/O Batista fired his weapon during the incident. Batista’s weapon was seized and examined. It was determined that he had fired a total of three rounds.
The weapon recovered in the rear yard of No.103/105 Park Terrace is a Glock 40 cal. semi-automatic pistol. It was stolen in a residential burglary three weeks earlier. The owner reports that the pistol had been stored with the magazine fully loaded (thirteen rounds) but not inserted, and with no round in the chamber. Investigators found ten rounds in the magazine and one in the pistol’s chamber, indicating that only two rounds had been fired.
Ammunition Three nine millimeter expended casings were found on the roadway of Park Terrace. A single expended bullet was recovered from a Ford Explorer vehicle parked in front of No. 109/111 Park Terrace. These were all determined to have been fired in P/O Batista’s weapon. Two expended .40 cal. casings were found close to the location where Mr. George slumped to the ground along the west fence of No. 103/105 Park Terrace. An expended .40 cal. bullet was also found between the same fence and the house. Both casings were determined to have been fired in Mr. George’s pistol; the expended bullet in typically damaged condition, was determined to be consistent with having been fired in it.
Blood A sizeable amount of blood was found in the immediate vicinity where Mr. George collapsed. The only other blood found was along the route on which the deceased was evacuated by stretcher. There have been no reports of any other injured persons. Blood-like stains were located on the barrel, trigger guard and nose of the 40 cal. Glock. This is consistent with close-range back-spatter which is typical of a shot fired from three inches. An examination by the State Forensic Laboratory, however failed to detect the presence of any corresponding blood stains on P/O Batista’s clothing.
Gunshot Residue (GSR) GSR swabbings were taken from Mr. George at St. Vincent’s Hospital, but not until his clothing had been removed pursuant to life-saving efforts. Further, as depicted in photographs, he had expended a large amount of blood, particularly over his right hand. Consequently, only a minimal finding (lead on his left hand) was made. P/O Batista’s hands were swabbed after his clothing had been removed for investigative purposes. The GSR results were negative.
Fingerprints The Glock handgun was preserved for fingerprint analysis. On examination, no identifiable latent prints were found; however, the magazine did have a single print. This has been compared to the known prints of Mr. George, P/Os Batista and Simpson and Sgt. Pribesh and the weapon’s owner, as well as being run through the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). There have been no matches. The identities of the original burglar or anyone else who may have handled the weapon prior to Mr. George on August 25 are unknown.
Fibers The expended 40 cal. bullet found along the west fence of No.103/105 Park Terrace has been examined microscopically. Stuck to its nose and sides is a gray material which is consistent in color with the sweatpants worn by Mr. George. Further testing of the bullet hole on the sweatpants that corresponded with the entry wound on George’s right thigh determined that the distance from the pistol’s muzzle to the wound was between contact and twelve inches.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a requires "a determination of whether the use of deadly physical force by the peace officer was appropriate under section 53a-22." No one actually observed Raylyn George at the point when he was shot. Based upon the time line of the aural and visual observations of various witnesses, it is evident that P/O Batista was not even in the rear yard of 103/105 Park place when the last two shots were fired. There is no evidence placing any other person in near proximity to George at any time. The undersigned concludes, on the basis of statements all of police as well as civilian witnesses, as well as the State Police crime scene investigation, all forensic examinations, including the autopsy conducted by the State’s Chief Medical Examiner, that no peace officer fired a weapon that caused any injury to Raylyn George
The precise mechanism of Mr. George’s death remains a matter of conjecture. What is known is that it occurred as he was fleeing police and, likely, attempting to scale a four foot high fence while holding a stolen, locked and loaded handgun in his right hand. Consequently, is no evidence that any peace officer’s actions were inappropriate.
Submitted pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 51-277a on May 11, 2006
Jonathan C. Benedict
Judicial District of Fairfield