Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Waterbury concerning the Fatal Shooting of Jashon Bryant and the Wounding of Brandon Henry in Hartford on May 7, 2005.
This report is being filed with the Chief State’s Attorney as required under Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a(c).
On Saturday, May 7, 2005, at approximately 1930 hours, Officer Robert Lawlor, a sworn member of the Hartford, Connecticut Police Department, while on duty, was involved in an incident pertaining to the use of deadly force. Officer Lawlor shot Brandon Henry (date of birth August 26, 1983) and Jashon Bryant (date of birth December 9, 1986). Brandon Henry was shot in the chest and Jashon Bryant was shot twice in the top of the head, causing his death. At the time of the shooting Officer Lawlor was working in plainclothes as part of a joint City of Hartford and Federal Gun Task Force known as The Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT). With Officer Lawlor, at the time of the shooting, was U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Special Agent Daniel Prather.
The initial investigation into the use of deadly force by Officer Robert Lawlor was conducted by the Hartford Police Department and subsequently by the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford. That investigation continued until June 2, 2005 when the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford, James Thomas, requested, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a, that Chief State’s Attorney, Christopher Morano, designate a prosecutorial official from another judicial district to investigate the use of deadly force. On June 2, 2005, the investigation was assigned to the Waterbury State’s Attorney’s Office.
Upon the State’s Attorney’s office for the Judicial District of Waterbury assuming the investigation, inspectors from said office, along with a special inspector appointed pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a(b) received from members of the Hartford Police Department: physical evidence, written statements, photographs, videotapes, and recorded communications which transpired before, during and after the time of the use of deadly force by Officer Lawlor. These materials were reviewed, along with the autopsy report of Jashon Bryant and the interviews of various witnesses.
The investigation of the use of deadly physical force by Officer Robert Lawlor, upon Jashon Bryant and Brandon Henry was conducted by members of the State’s Attorney’s Office for the Judicial District of Waterbury with the assistance of members of the Hartford Police Department, Connecticut State Police, Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
After having exhausted normal investigative means into the use of deadly physical force by Hartford Police Officer Robert Lawlor on May 7, 2005, State’s Attorney John A. Connelly filed an application on September 13, 2005 pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 54-47c, for an investigation into the commission of a crime or crimes, and on October 4, 2005, the Investigatory Grand Jury Panel approved said application. The Honorable George N. Thim was appointed as Grand Juror to conduct an investigation into all events and circumstances relating to the use of deadly force by Hartford Police Officer Robert Lawlor on Saturday, May 7, 2005 resulting in the death of Jashon Bryant and serious injury to Brandon Henry.
The Grand Juror held eleven sessions during which forty-eight witnesses testified and two hundred and four exhibits were submitted into evidence.
On March 31, 2006, the Grand Juror, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 54-47g, filed a report with his findings, in which he stated:
"On October 12, 2005, I was appointed by the Chief Court Administrator as an investigatory grand juror for the purpose of conducting an investigation that was authorized by the Grand Jury Investigatory Panel upon its approval of an application submitted by John A. Connelly, State’s Attorney, Judicial District of Waterbury. The Investigatory Grand Jury Panel defined the scope of the investigation as follows: ‘All events and circumstances relating to the use of deadly force by Hartford Police Officer Robert Lawlor on Saturday, May 7, 2005, resulting in the death of Jashon Bryant and serious injury to Brandon Henry.’ I have gathered and reviewed all the relevant evidence. The investigation has been completed.
"I conclude that there is probable cause to believe that a crime or crimes have been committed. This finding is based on the credible and legally admissible evidence revealed in the course of the investigation and is made with knowledge that, should there be a prosecution, the state will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Robert Lawlor acted without legal justification."
On May 7, 2005 at approximately 7:15 p.m., Officer Lawlor and Special Agent Prather were interviewing an unknown white male at the corner of Main and Nelson Streets in Hartford, directly in front of Olga’s Market. Lawlor noticed a black Maxima across the street, in the parking lot of 2374 Main St., which is at the rear of the Ideal Market. Said market is located at the corner of Main and Sanford Streets. On the far side of the Maxima, Lawlor saw a black male (Jashon Bryant), outside of the vehicle, handling what Lawlor believed to be a semi-automatic handgun. Prather did not notice anyone outside the Maxima, nor did he see anyone with a gun. Lawlor turned his attention from the unknown white male, nodded across the street and began walking across Main St. toward the parking lot of 2374 Main St., which is at the rear of the Ideal Market. A black male later identified as Brandon Henry exited the Ideal Market and began walking to the parking area at the rear of the building. Henry subsequently entered the driver’s seat of the black Maxima, and Bryant got into the front passenger’s seat. Prather proceeded to follow Lawlor across the street. While walking Lawlor asked Prather if he had his badge showing. Prather then produced the badge he was wearing around his neck, and Lawlor pulled out his service weapon, a .45 caliber automatic. Lawlor began shouting commands at Henry, "police shut the vehicle off." When they reached the parking lot, Prather walked straight to the driver’s side of the vehicle, while Lawlor angled north and approached from in front of the vehicle. Lawlor now pointed his weapon at Henry. Henry began to slowly back the vehicle up. After commands from Lawlor to turn the vehicle off, Henry complied, raising his hands above the steering wheel. The Maxima was now facing north-northwest. Lawlor then walked from the front of the Maxima and approached the passenger side of the vehicle and began talking to Bryant. Bryant’s window was partially down. Prather remained on the driver’s side of the vehicle and began conversing with Henry. Lawlor ordered Prather to call for back up. Prather radioed fellow VCIT members at 7:21 p.m., and requested assistance. Fellow VCIT members acknowledged Prather and indicated that they were responding to his location. At this point Prather saw Henry lower his hands, and he ordered him to raise them. Henry did, resting them on the steering wheel. Prather, now standing aside the front tire, drew his service weapon, and held it down by his side. Prather turned to look for fellow VCIT members, heard a noise, and turned back to see Henry begin to drive off. Prather stated he then heard "four pops." Said pops were in fact (5) gunshots fired by Lawlor. Brandon Henry was shot in the chest and Jashon Bryant was shot twice in the head (fatally). At 7:23 p.m., Prather radioed "shots fired, shots fired".
After being shot, Henry then drove the vehicle forward, over grass and curb, creating his own exit out of the parking lot, onto Main Street. Fellow VCIT officers pursued the vehicle. Henry then drove his vehicle north on Main Street approximately 2110 feet to the intersection of Westland Street. Henry turned left onto Westland and drove west approximately 1600 feet to the intersection of Westland and Clark Streets where his vehicle collided with another car. Henry then ran from the Maxima, while Jashon Bryant remained in the car. A short time later Henry was apprehended hiding underneath a porch.
Bryant was transported by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital where he was pronounced dead. His clothing was seized as evidence by the Hartford Police, and his hands were bagged prior to his removal to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Based on the evidence recovered at the scene (shell casings), and an examination of Officer Lawlor’s service weapon, it was determined that five shots were fired, all from Officer Lawlor’s weapon.
Immediately after the shooting at 7:25 p.m., Officer Lawlor made a radio transmission in which he warned other officers, "be careful 83s in the car." Signal 83 is Hartford Police Department code for a gun or firearm.
None of the officers that pursued the Maxima ever saw anything thrown from the car during the pursuit. Following the capture of Brandon Henry, the Maxima was searched. A bag of cocaine was found under the driver’s seat. Nothing was found under the passenger’s seat where Bryant was seated. On May 7, 2005, the police conducted a massive search of the area, shooting scene and Henry’s direction of travel. No weapon was found. Two subsequent searches were conducted on May 8, 2005 during daylight hours, and again no weapon was found.
The Hartford Police Evidentiary Services Division processed the shooting scene at 2374 Main Street, the accident scene at the intersection of Westland and Clark Streets, and the Brandon Henry apprehension scene at 68 Elmer Street. Photographs of the Nissan Maxima show that the driver’s side windows, front and rear, and the passenger’s front window were all partially down. The passenger’s rear window was shot out.
Raphael Melendez witnessed the shooting from across the street at Olga’s Market. Melendez was familiar with Officer Lawlor having previously been arrested by him. According to Melendez, immediately following the shooting, Lawlor came to the edge of the road and said "I can’t believe he pulled a gun on me."
Officer Lawlor in an I-call radio transmission to Detective William Rivera at 7:31 p.m., had the following conversation:
Lawlor: Hey....what’s going on with these two? Did, did I hit anybody that tried to just kill me and this guy?
Rivera: Yeah ya hit somebody bro . I’ll let ya know in a second.
Lawlor: Is he dead?
Rivera: I’ll let ya know in a second
Rivera: Say, ya all right?
Lawlor: No, I’m not. Fucking guy almost hit me and fuckin’ pulled a gun on me. No, I’m not all right. I’m pissed.
Hartford Police Sergeant Mack Hawkins was the supervisor assigned to the Intelligence Division overseeing the VCIT, and was the first officer to respond to the shooting scene. Officer Lawlor told Hartford Police Sergeant Mack Hawkins that Bryant pulled up a gun, and that when he saw the gun, he jumped back from the passenger’s door and fired four to five shots. Hawkins did not ask Prather what transpired, nor did Prather volunteer any information regarding the shooting. That all the information Hawkins ever ascertained came solely from Robert Lawlor.
On May 9, 2005, Special Agent Prather submitted to an interview conducted by ATF Shooting Review Coordinator Robert A. Schmitt. On May 11, 2005, Special Agent Prather was interviewed at the Hartford Police Department. Present were Special Agent Dennis Turman (ATF Agent in Charge), James T. Cowdery (Prather’s attorney), Lieutenant Achilles Rethis (Commander of Major Crimes), Detective Patricia Beaudin (lead investigator) and Detective Timothy Shaw (assistant investigator). Agent Prather did not provide a written statement nor allow the interview to be videotaped or orally recorded. Said interview was memorialized by notes of Detective Beaudin. On June 1, 2005, Attorney James T. Cowdery submitted a signed unsworn statement of Special Agent Dan Prather to Lieutenant Achilles Rethis, Commander of the Major Crimes Division of the Hartford Police Department.
On January 10, 2006, Special Agent Prather testified before the Grand Jury. His testimony included the following information: While speaking to the unknown white male at the corner of Main and Nelson Streets, Prather saw Lawlor nod toward the parking lot across Main Street and then begin crossing the street. Prather did not recall Lawlor saying anything to him. When they got to the opposite side of Main Street, Prather heard Lawlor tell him to take out his badge. Prather testified to the following:
Question: And did Officer Lawlor at that time indicate to you that there was a weapon in the car while you were standing by the car and he’s crouched down on the side of the passenger door?
Answer: I don’t recall him saying that.
Q: He doesn’t say; Dan, watch out. There’s a gun, or anything like that?
A: I don’t recall that.
Q: Do you know the signal for gun in Hartford Police dispatch language?
A: I believe it was 83.
Q: Did you hear him say; Dan, 83?
A: I don’t recall.
Q: Did he tell you; Dan, take out your weapon. Or; Dan watch out?
A: I don’t recall any of that.
Prather testified that at no time while he was at the car with Officer Lawlor did he believe his life was in danger, nor was Officer Lawlor’s. Prather indicated he saw Lawlor approach the passenger side of the car and at one point Lawlor was crouched down on the passenger side of the car. Prather indicated he stayed on the driver’s side of the Maxima throughout the entire incident, approximately one foot from the car, between the front tire and the driver’s door.
Prather testified that while he was at the car with the two men in the car, he was not aware of any activity that would lead to probable cause to make any type of an arrest. Prather did not see any criminal activity by Bryant or Henry at any time.
Prather testified the shots were fired while the car was moving forward. Prather testified that a few moments after the shooting Lawlor said "something wasn’t right" but at no point, before, during or after the shooting did Lawlor ever indicate to Prather that either person in the Maxima had a gun.
Prather testified that although he spoke to Sergeant Hawkins when he first arrived on the scene after the shooting, Prather did not tell him what had occurred.
None of Prather’s four oral or written statements indicated that he saw either person in the Maxima in possession of a gun.
Brandon Henry was shot in the chest, fled from the police, and when apprehended, was taken to the hospital for treatment of the gun shot wound. A subsequent search of the vehicle revealed there was no weapon in the car. No gun was recovered in the car nor in the course of the escape route, however there were drugs found under the driver’s seat where Henry was seated. Based on the finding of drugs under the seat where Henry was sitting he was arrested for Possession of Narcotics and Interfering with Police. He was subsequently arrested for Violation of Probation. Both cases are now pending in the Judicial District of Hartford.
Brandon Henry’s medical records were produced at the Grand Jury, and subsequently disclosed to the Connecticut Forensic Laboratory for use in their reconstruction. Brandon Henry was shot in the chest. According to Dr. John Welch, his attending physician, Henry had two wounds in his chest, which appeared to be one entry and one exit wound. One wound was over the center of the chest over the sternum. The second was to the right near Henry’s right nipple. Dr. Welch concluded that the bullet entered one of these wounds, traveled horizontally along the front of his body, hit some structure and exited out the other wound. Dr. Welch described Henry’s injury as non life-threatening.
On May 9, 2005, Associate Medical Examiner Ira Kanfer, M.D., performed a postmortem examination on the body of Jashon Bryant at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Dr. Kanfer concluded Mr. Bryant died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, and described the gunshots wounds of the head as follows:
Gunshot wound "A" is an entry type gunshot wound located approximately at the top of the head, located 1-1/2 inches to the right of the midline. It is a 1.5 cm., somewhat irregular hole without soot or stippling associated with the wound.
Gunshot wound "B" is also located at the top of the head, somewhat posterior. It is also 1-1/2 inches to the right of midline. It is a 0.5 cm irregular hole. Associated with the entry wounds are one copper jacketed bullet recovered in the base of the cranial vault and the 2nd bullet is recovered in the soft tissue posterior to the mandible. The bullets are large caliber, copper jacketed bullets. The paths of the bullets are from back to front, right to left and downward. The brain is markedly disrupted and pulverized.
In addition to the gunshot wounds there is a 2 cm defect of the right thumb with hemorrhage surrounding the defect. According to Dr. Ira Kanfer, Jashon Bryant died instantly from the wounds to his head.
On September 6, 2005, Dr. Kanfer, indicated to State’s Attorney John Connelly and Inspector James Bart Deeley that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the grazed wound type injury to the deceased’s right thumb is consistent with a defensive wound, which would indicate that at the time of the shooting, at least one of Bryant’s hands was on his head.
According to Jashon Bryant’s grandmother Betty Bryant, with whom he resided, Jashon Bryant was right-handed.
Five bullets were discharged from Lawlor’s weapon, and all of the bullets were subsequently recovered. Two bullets were recovered from the head of Jashon Bryant. One bullet was found on the ground outside the driver’s door at the site of the collision. One bullet was found in the driver’s door map holder. The last bullet was recovered inside the rear passengers’ door panel.
Dr. Henry C. Lee of the Connecticut Forensic Laboratory conducted a reconstruction of the shooting. Based upon the review of documentation, results of examination of physical evidence, reconstruction of the scene and location of physical evidence at the scene, Dr. Lee determined that:
The vehicle was moving from a location near the center of the parking lot toward Main Street in a northwest direction from the shooting incident.
Based on the location of the spent casings and the location of the tire marks on the parking lot, all five shots were discharged from the passenger side of the vehicle.
The locations of the fired shell casings and glass fragments and the conditions of the tire marks indicate that both the vehicle and the shooter were moving at the time of the shooting.
The most likely sequence of events was:
1. The first two shots were fired from the front passenger side toward the front driver’s side. One of the bullets grazes the chest area of the driver. The trajectories of these shots were from right to left. The driver appears to have been in an upright position at the time when this bullet impacted him.
2. Next a shot was fired from the back passenger side toward the front passenger side. The bullet impacted the rear passenger’s window and subsequently entered the right side of the passenger headrest and exited the front of the passenger headrest and then entered the passenger’s head to cause one of his head wounds. The bullet trajectory was from back to front, right to left, approximately 36 degree angle and 5 degrees downward.
3. The next shot was fired from the back passenger side through the broken window toward the front passenger side. The bullet trajectory is back to front, right to left, approximately 50 degree angle, and 14 degrees downward. This bullet impacted the back side of the passenger’s head.
4. The last shot was fired from the back of the passenger side. This bullet impacted the rear passenger’s door and did not exit the door. The trajectory of this shot is from back to front, right to left, approximately 23 degree angle and 3 degrees downward.
Dr. Lee testified on January 17, 2006 in accordance with his report’s conclusions.
On November 13, 2005 the Connecticut Forensic Laboratory submitted a report of the instrumental analysis on the Scanning Electron Microscopy tabs taken by the Hartford Police Evidentiary Services Division to test for the presence of gunshot residues. The three elements found in gunshot residue are lead, barium and antimony. The analysis detected the presence of lead on samples from the: driver’s door exterior, passenger’s door exterior, passenger’s door rear, left sleeve of Brandon Henry’s jacket, passenger’s side and driver’s side headliner, sunroof cover and driver’s floor, but did not detect the additional elements of barium and antimony on any of these samples.
The November 13, 2005 report from the Connecticut Forensic Laboratory on instrumental analysis failed to detect the presence of lead, barium or antimony (gunshot residue) on samples from the: steering wheel, gearshift, passenger’s door interior, driver’s side rear door exterior, driver’s door interior, passenger’s floor and the bags from Bryant’s hands.
On June 7, 2005, the Connecticut Forensic Laboratory submitted a report of the analysis of a gunshot residue kit from the hands of Jashon Bryant. The analysis failed to detect the presence of the elements of lead, barium or antimony (gunshot residue).
On June 14, 2005, the Stuart Somers engineering firm surveyed the parking lot and intersection at Main and Nelson Streets. The lot at 2374 Main Street in Hartford was paved, but undeveloped, without designated parking spaces. Based on Lawlor and Prather’s information as to their initial location on Main Street, the distance between Lawlor and the Maxima was approximately 130 to 150 feet. The parking lot sloped downward from the street and the back (easternmost) part of the lot was four feet lower than the front (westernmost) section of the lot adjacent to the street.
Immediately after Brandon Henry’s apprehension, during questioning by Hartford Detective Andrew Weaver, Henry responded that he couldn’t believe he had gotten shot over drugs. When questioned as to the whereabouts of the weapon, Henry said, "I didn’t have a gun." Following the capture of Brandon Henry, police conducted a massive search of the area, shooting scene and Henry’s direction of travel. No weapon was found. Two subsequent searches were conducted on May 8, 2005 during daylight hours, and again no weapon was found.
On May 7, 2005, while at Hartford Hospital, Officer Morrison and Officer Leger, advised Henry of his Miranda rights. Subsequent to that advisement, Henry was interviewed. Henry stated that there was no gun in the car. Henry stated that he and his boy were parked, that the cops were walking up on them, that he knew they were cops in plainclothes when one of them flipped his badge out from under his shirt. Henry stated that there was a lot of yelling, then all of a sudden there was shooting. Henry stated that his boy fell back into the car and there was blood everywhere. Henry stated he was afraid so he just took off.
At approximately 2255 hours on May 7, 2005, Sergeant John Koch re-interviewed Henry at Hartford Hospital. After being advised of his rights, Henry agreed to be interviewed. Henry stated he and the deceased were both out of the Maxima when he saw the two males approaching, and he told the deceased to get in the car. That he saw one of the men pulled out a police badge from under his shirt, and he realized that the two males were police officers. Henry stated he had an eighth of an ounce of cocaine in the vehicle, and he did not want to go back to jail. One officer was on the driver’s side while the other was on the passenger’s side. Henry stated that he stepped on the gas to take off at which time he heard gunshots being fired. Henry looked at Bryant and said blood was coming out of his head like a "waterfall" and that one of his eyes was swollen like he had been shot through it. At this point Henry fled with the intention of taking Bryant to the hospital. After the collision with another car, Henry exited his vehicle and fled, subsequently hiding under a residence porch until taken into police custody. When asked where the "half an eight ball " was now, Henry said it was probably still in his car. When asked whether there was a firearm in the car Henry stated that he had "half an eight ball" but they didn’t have a gun. The interview was stopped at 2330 hours. That the cocaine was later located in the vehicle, under the driver’s seat, and submitted into evidence. Nothing was found under the passenger’s seat where Bryant was seated.
On May 8, 2005 at approximately 2145 hours, Detectives Michael Sheldon and Patricia Beaudin conducted an interview with Brandon Henry at the Hartford Police Department. Henry was in custody for the narcotics charge. When questioned as to what happened before and after the shooting, Henry indicated that he went to 2374 Main Street Hartford with his friend Jashon Bryant. Henry admitted to having a half an eight ball of cocaine (an eighth of an ounce) in the car and noticed two plainclothes officers approaching his car with their guns drawn and pointed at him and Bryant. That when asked how he knew they were cops he stated he heard their police radios. Henry stated he didn’t want to go back to jail and knew he was headed back if caught with the drugs. Henry stated he heard the officer on the passenger side of the car yelling "keep your hands where I can see them." Henry then blamed the shooting incident on himself stating "because I made the decision to drive off that’s when the shots were fired." Henry stated he realized he and Jashon had been shot while fleeing the scene. Henry stated he decided to run because he still didn’t want to go to jail for the cocaine that was in the car. When asked if he or Bryant had a gun in the car he stated "no there was no gun."
On December 6, 2005, Brandon Henry testified before the Grand Jury under a grant of immunity, to the following:
Henry was driving the black Maxima on May 7, 2005 and drove to the Ideal Market on Main Street in Hartford. Henry parked on Main Street but told Jashon Bryant to move the car into the lot behind the Ideal Market while Henry went into the Ideal Market because Bryant wanted to look for his money. When Henry returned from the Ideal Market, the Maxima was in the lot and Jashon Bryant was outside the car. As Henry neared his car, he saw two men looking at him. One man was wearing a hoodie (Lawlor) and the other a hat (Prather). Henry and Bryant both entered the car and Henry began to back up. The cop with the hoodie pulled out a gun and ordered them to stop and put their hands up. Henry indicated both he and Bryant complied. Henry indicated that he realized they were police officers when he heard their police radios. Henry indicated that both officers were initially on the driver’s side of the car but that the man with the gun moved in front of the car to the passenger side. The other man (Prather) remained on the driver’s side of the car. The man with the gun ordered Henry to turn off the car and he did. Henry saw the man with the gun take out his cell phone and start dialing. Henry saw the other cop with the walkie-talkie turn his head, so Henry started the car "real quick and pulled off, and like just started hearing shots." Henry heard the shots fired after he pulled off. Henry decided to try to get away because he was on probation, had drugs in the car, was scared and did not want to got back to jail. Henry did not tell Jashon Bryant that he was going to attempt to flee. Henry never saw Bryant reach under the seat or to the floor.
On May 9, 2005, Lieutenant Achilles Rethis contacted Robert Lawlor’s attorney Michael Georgetti to schedule an interview of Officer Lawlor. Attorney Georgetti notified Lieutenant Rethis that his client had received information from one of his confidential informants that a junkie had picked up the gun thrown from the vehicle occupied by Mr. Henry and Mr. Bryant. Attorney Georgetti was advised to have Officer Lawlor transmit his information to the Major Crimes Division.
On May 10, 2005 at approximately 10 a.m., Detective William Rivera received a phone call from Robert Lawlor. In said phone call, Lawlor told Rivera that he (Lawlor) had received information from a confidential source that a "fiend" had picked up the gun and the "fiend" was from the Nelton Court housing project. According to Detective Rivera, "fiend" is a slang term for a drug addict. Detective Rivera indicated Lawlor was referring to a gun having been thrown from the Maxima. Detective Rivera told Lawlor to report that information to Sergeant Hawkins.
Robert Lawlor never notified Sergeant Hawkins or the Major Crimes Division of the Hartford Police Department of any information concerning a "fiend" finding a gun.
On May 13, 2005, Jaime Diaz telephoned Hartford Community Relations Officer Daniel Auciello and stated that he had the gun involved in the police shooting on May 7, 2005. Diaz subsequently dictated a detailed statement to Hartford Detectives Bruskey and Sheldon, in which he described how he came into possession of the gun. In response to questions from the police officers he denied knowing Officer Lawlor and Special Agent Prather.
A subsequent investigation revealed that Jaime Diaz had previously worked as an informant for Officer Lawlor in 1995. Diaz had been involved in a drug sting of a major drug dealer in Hartford in which he provided information to Lawlor that resulted in the arrest of Angel Garcia and the seizure of (600) bags of Heroin. Angel Garcia was arrested as a result of Jaime Diaz’ cooperation with Officer Lawlor, but Diaz was not arrested.
On May 14, 2005, at 4:55 p.m. Detectives Beaudin and Shaw re-interviewed Diaz. Diaz was shown a picture of Officer Lawlor. Diaz denied ever having any contact with Lawlor. When asked about the 1995 incident, Diaz still denied knowing Lawlor. Diaz left the police department at 5:15 p.m..
On May 16, 2005 at 11:15 p.m., Diaz again contacted Detective Shaw and said he was at the police station and needed to change his written statement. Diaz subsequently dictated a detailed statement to Hartford Detective Mike Sheldon in which he stated he had lied on his previous statement, and fabricated the information about the pellet gun to help Lawlor as a favor to Lawlor for not arresting Diaz in 1995.
An arrest warrant was subsequently issued for Jaime Diaz charging him with violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-155 - Tampering with or Fabricating Physical Evidence, 53a-157b False Statement in The Second Degree, 53a-167a Interfering with Police. The Waterbury States Attorney's Office is handling the prosecution of Jaime Diaz.
On January 31, 2006, Officer Lawlor testified before the Grand Jury. He testified to the following:
He has been a Hartford police officer for more than eighteen years. On May 7, 2005, he saw a black Maxima in the parking lot across the street from Olga’s market at Main and Nelson Streets. The Maxima was "parked inconsistent with standard – with parking for the parking lot." Main Street runs north and south. The car was facing northwest. He saw a black male (Jashon Bryant) on the passenger’s side of the Maxima, outside the vehicle. The male appeared to be clutching a small semiautomatic handgun with both hands, and fumbling with it. Lawlor crossed the street to approach the vehicle, and said to Prather "83" to signify a firearm. However, Prather did not realize what "83" meant because "he was never even familiarized with our Ten Codes."
This testimony was contradicted by Prather’s, in that Prather testified he never heard Lawlor say "83", and Prather was aware that "83" signified a firearm in Hartford Police Code.
Lawlor also testified that:
Henry exited the Ideal market and returned to the car. Both Henry and Bryant entered the vehicle, Henry as driver and Bryant as passenger. Henry started the car, and began to slowly drive toward the exit, heading due west toward Lawlor and Prather. Lawlor drew his service weapon, and began ordering the two occupants of the Maxima to shut off the vehicle and put their hands up. The car stopped and then began to go backwards. The car was again facing northwest. Lawlor moved from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side of the car while Prather remained on the driver’s side, between the driver’s door and the front tire. The passenger’s window was partially down. Lawlor repeatedly commanded the occupants to show their hands. Lawlor indicated he could see Henry’s hands and he did not have anything in them. Lawlor could not see Bryant’s hands because "he would bring ‘em up a little bit, and then he would bring ‘em back down again." Lawlor told Prather to call for backup. Lawlor then took out his phone and attempted to call for backup but could not because it was so cumbersome. At some point the Maxima was shut off. Lawlor testified the driver and the passenger did communicate with one another and he felt they made the decision to flee. "... I saw that their mind was made up, and they both -- one went for the keys, and whatever he did to get that car moving again. The passenger of that car made -- his hands were not up. He made movement to go to the floor. He went down."
This testimony is contradicted by the physical evidence, in that Bryant’s right thumb injury suggests that his hand was at or above the level of the front passenger window at the time he sustained the wound.
Lawlor testified that he jumped back and started shooting, first at the passenger and then at the operator.
This testimony is contradicted by the physical evidence and reconstruction conclusions of Dr. Henry C. Lee that the first shots were at the operator.
Lawlor testified he fired at the passenger because "in my heart that passenger was coming up with a handgun to shoot at me." Lawlor testified that at no time did he actually see a handgun in the vehicle.
Lawlor further testified that he never saw a gun while he was at the car, he never saw either the driver or the passenger pull a gun on him, did not see the passenger point a gun at Lawlor, did not see the passenger point a gun at Prather, and did not see the passenger point a gun at Lawlor as the car drove away.
When questioned as to what he meant when he said to Detective Rivera in the I-call shortly after the shooting that "fucking guy almost hit me and fucking pulled a gun on me", Lawlor testified that, "I would have been referring to the driver of the car. And I would have been referring to "fucking pulled a gun on me" because that’s exactly what I believe that the passenger was about to do to me."
Lawlor testified that he intended to fire into the "occupiable compartment of the vehicle".
Lawlor testified that he began firing because the car was moving forward, which is a violation of Hartford Police Department Order 1-20.
Hartford Police Officer Lewis Crabtree, a Hartford Police Department firearms instructor, testified on January 31, 2006 that all Hartford police officers are governed by General Order Policy and Procedures Number 1-20, effective 11/20/88. Order 1-20 pertains to firearms guidelines, and establishes the limits within which the use of firearms by members of the Hartford Police Department is permitted, as well as prohibited. Under Order 1-20, § III. B.3. The use of firearms is prohibited: "to fire from or at a moving vehicle unless the occupants of the other vehicle are using deadly physical force against the officer or another person."
The evidence showed that neither occupant of the Maxima was using deadly physical force against Lawlor or Prather at the time Lawlor fired into their vehicle, and that neither occupant was armed.
Lawlor testified in response to whether he had ever told anyone that a junkie had picked up the gun that was thrown from the car, "I just don’t believe I ever said that."
Lawlor’s testimony was contradicted by Detective William Rivera’s testimony regarding the phone call he received from Lawlor regarding a "fiend".
Determination of Whether Officer Lawlor's Use of Deadly Force Was Appropriate
Section 51-277a of the Connecticut General Statutes provides that "the Division of Criminal Justice shall cause an investigation to be made 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 ..." The State’s Attorney must determine the circumstances of the incident, and whether the use of deadly physical force by the peace officer was appropriate under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22. Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22 provides, in part, that:
A peace officer ... is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person ... only when he reasonably believes that such is necessary to: (c) defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.
Based upon the forensic investigation, autopsy and medical reports, statements of the witnesses, Officer Robert Lawlor’s own sworn testimony and the applicable case law (State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, 807 A.2d 500, cert. denied 262 Conn. 923, 812 A.2d 865 (2002); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989)), the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Waterbury determines that the use of deadly physical force by Officer Robert Lawlor was not appropriate under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22.
As a result of the determination that the use of deadly physical force by Officer Robert Lawlor was not appropriate under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22, and the Grand Juror’s findings that a crime or crimes have been committed by Officer Lawlor resulting in the death of Jashon Bryant and physical injury to Brandon Henry, an arrest warrant should be applied for, charging him with Manslaughter in the first degree in violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-55(a)(3) for the homicide of Jashon Bryant and Assault in the first degree in violation of Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-59 for the wounding of Brandon Henry.
Signed and Submitted this 15th day of May 2006.
John A. Connelly
Judicial District of Waterbury