Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield Issued Pursuant to Section 51-277a of the Connecticut General Statutes Concerning the Death of Jamar Marrow in Bridgeport on May 3, 2006.
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 force upon another person and such person dies as a result thereof." The incident in question took place during the late evening hours of May 3, 2006 at the intersection of Iranistan Avenue and Black Rock Avenue, Bridgeport.
Pursuant to this Judicial District’s established protocol, the participation of the involved agency (Bridgeport Police Department) 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 further investigation was conducted under the supervision of the undersigned by the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the State Forensic Science Laboratory.
In the course of the scene investigation the body of an initially unidentified male (later determined, thru fingerprints, to be Jamar Marrow, aged twenty-four of Bridgeport) was taken into custody by personnel of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. On May 5 a complete autopsy was conducted by H. Wayne Carver II M. D., the state’s Chief Medical Examiner. State Police personnel were in attendance.
Doctor Carver found evidence of two gunshot wounds. As to the first wound, the bullet entered the deceased’s back at the left shoulder and traveled slightly forward and downward before coming to rest in the soft tissue of the right side of the chest. In it’s course, the bullet passed through the left lung, heart and right lung. This was the injury that resulted in death. The second wound was a grazing wound slightly below and parallel to the first. Examination of Marrow’s jacket and t-shirt
revealed apparent bullet holes consistent with the injuries. Subsequent testing by the State Forensic Science Laboratory determined that the shots were fired from a distance in excess of three feet.
Samples of body fluid were submitted for toxicology testing. It was determined that, at the time of his death, Jamar Marrow was free of narcotic drugs but had a blood-alchohol level of 0.14%
which is significantly in excess of the legal level of 0.08%. The deceased’s criminal history reflects four prior prosecutions including larceny, sale of narcotics and robbery for which he had been sentenced to state prison. He was on probation at the time of his death.
A. Attempted Robbery. Shortly before 10:30 p.m. on May 3, Francisco Rodriguez exited his home in the city’s east side and walked to a nearby market. On heading back home from the market and reaching the intersection of Maple and Harriet Streets, Rodriguez was accosted from behind by a tall, husky African-American male who pointed a rifle and said, "give me the money."
Rodriguez responded that he didn’t have any money and, to avoid being shot, grabbed for the weapon. In the ensuing struggle, two shots were fired into the ground. The would-be robber then wrested the rifle away, ran a short distance to a dark-colored Ford Explorer SUV, and drove off. In the struggle for the weapon Rodriquez suffered lacerations to his head and left hand.
Police responded to 911 calls within minutes and broadcast descriptions of the perpetrator and vehicle. After the shooting incident to be described below, Mr. Rodrigueez and two eyewitnesses were transported to Iranistan Avenue where each identified a dark green Ford Explorer as the vehicle used in the attempted robbery.. Rodriguez and one witness identified the body of Jamar Marrow as the person who had attempted the robbery only a short time earlier and Rodriguez further identified a .22 cal. rifle as the one he had tried to take away from Marrow. Later investigation located one expended .22 cal. casing at the robbery scene and another still in the weapon’s chamber.
B. Police Pursuit. At approximately 10:30pm, Bridgeport Police Officers Jason Amato and James Borrico were sitting in their marked patrol car behind police headquarters located at 300 Congress Street. At that time they heard a police radio broadcast relating to the Harriet street incident which included a description of a black male, armed with a "long rifle or pellet gun," operating a dark-colored Ford Explorer SUV. From their vantage point, the officers almost immediately observed a dark green Ford Explorer SUV, operated by a black male, proceed past them from the direction of the East Side and head onto Washington Avenue westbound. The officers, Amato driving, took chase.
The officers activated their emergency lights and caught up with the Explorer on Washington Avenue, causing it to pull over. As Officer Borrico began to radio for support, the Explorer sped off down Washington, turned right (north) onto Park Avenue and then made an abrupt left turn onto Laurel Avenue. As Borrico called the chase in, Amato continued the pursuit which led through a maze of residential streets. Marrow maintained speeds of between forty and fifty mile per hour while weaving from side to side on the road and passing through clearly marked stop signs. Motor vehicles traveling in both directions were forced to pull off. The officers observed the operator repeatedly reach over and down to his right which caused his vehicle to veer back and forth even more erratically.
After Marrow had negotiated its way across the area’s two primary thoroughfares, Fairfield Avenue and State Street, other police officers attempted to place their vehicles so as to cut off his flight. In one such effort, when Officer Joel Carly attempted to intercept Marrow at the intersection of Hanover Street and Iranistan Avenue, the latter swerved right (south) onto Iranistan, missing Carly’s vehicle by inches. As the pursuit now continued south on Iranistan Avenue, Sergeants Joseph Szor and John Cummings were approaching from the opposite direction with all vehicle lights activated. As both vehicles arrived at the intersection with Black Rock Avenue, the Explorer made an abrupt, high speed left turn onto Black Rock, narrowly missing the patrol car, but due to its speed, failing to negotiate the turn and crashing into the first vehicle parked on the right side of Black Rock Avenue.
C. Deadly Force. The Explorer had come to a stop with its front end pushed up against the operator’s side of the parked car on Black Rock Avenue. Officer Amato, driving the first pursuing police vehicle, stopped his car with its right-side front bumper placed next to the Explorer’s driver-side door so as to prevent exit. At this point, Officer Borrico exited from his passenger door, placing himself between the two vehicles. Officer Amato also exited the patrol car and, as he was doing so, observed the operator of the Explorer abruptly shift into reverse and accelerate away. As this was happening and Amato was proceeding to the rear of his vehicle, he noticed that Borrico, who had been standing between the two vehicles, was no longer in sight. Amato, thinking that his partner had been struck and was being run over, yelled "Stop!" and fired four rounds directly at the driver of the Explorer. The SUV proceeded a short distance in reverse, north on Iranistan Avenue, before swerving off the road into a yard and coming to a final stop, tangled in a page-link fence.
When Officer Borrico exited his vehicle he was concerned that the Explorer’s operator was armed. As a result, he yelled "Let me see your hands!" Even as the officer was saying this, Marrow revved his engine and reversed, swerving toward the officer. Borrico leapt back but was nevertheless brushed hard by the SUV, tearing his uniform and knocking him to his knees. When the Explorer had gone by, Borrico, getting to his feet, heard gunshots. Thinking they were being fired from the Explorer (actually they were fired by Amato), Borrico drew his weapon and fired a number of shots at the fleeing vehicle which eventually crashed into a page link fence
Officer Felix Echevaria was operating one of the vehicles pursuing Marrow down Iranistan Avenue. He observed the Explorer crash into a car parked on Black Rock Avenue. He then saw
Officers Amato and Borrico exit their vehicle, followed by one of them going to the ground as the SUV swerved away in reverse. He placed his patrol car so as to prevent the Explorer from getting away. As a result, it went off the road, crashed into a fence, coming to a complete and final stop. He next observed the operator throw a rifle from his car. As officers surrounded the Explorer, they called for the operator to show his hands. Marrow failed to comply; only moved his head, leaning to his right, until he became completely still. Emergency personnel arrived within minutes and pronounced him dead.
A. Neighborhood Canvas. In addition to interviewing all involved Bridgeport police personnel, Connecticut State Police investigators conducted a canvass of residents of the area surrounding the intersection of Iranistan and Black Rock Avenues. Of the twenty persons interviewed who actually heard or saw portions of the incident, only two actually observed a police officer firing a weapon. In both of these instances, the observation took place after the initial crash of the Explorer on Black Rock Avenue and while it was swerving northward up Iranistan.. Based upon the officers’ accounts, evidence collection at the scene, and firearms evidence comparisons, these shots were fired by officer Borrico.
B. Weapons Inventory. No officer fired a weapon other than Officers Amato and Borrico. Pursuant to protocol, the armaments of those officers were immediately taken into custody and inventoried. Officer Amato turned over a .40 cal. Sig-Sauer semi-automatic handgun, two full twelve round magazines and, from his weapon, a magazine containing nine rounds. Officer Amato carried his weapon with a full magazine and a thirteenth round (optional within the department) chambered in the gun, indicating that he had fired a total of four rounds.
Officer Borrico’s weapons complement consisted of a .40 cal. Sig-Sauer semi-automatic handgun, two full twelve round magazines and, from his weapon, one magazine containing six rounds Borrico did not carry his weapon with a chambered round, indicating that he had fired a total of six rounds..The ammunition counts of both officers are consistent with the evidence collected at the scene.
C. Firearms Identification. Four expended .40 cal. casings were collected in a small grouping located on the sidewalk of the northeast corner of the intersection of Iranistan and Black Rock Avenues. Forensic analysis demonstrated that these were all ejected from Officer Amato’s weapon. The remaining four .40 cal. casings recovered were gathered along a line that ran from the same corner heading toward the point where Marrow’s vehicle came to a final stop. These casings were determined to have been ejected from Officer Borrico’s weapon.
Six expended .40 cal. Bullets were recovered. One, seized by Dr. Carver at the end of the fatal wound track during the autopsy, was determined, by microscopic comparisons, to have been fired from Officer Amato’s weapon. A second bullet, found in the driver’s side doorwell of the Explorer was determined to have been fired from Officer Borrico’s weapon. The remaining four bullets, all found within or adjacent to the left side of the vehicle, were found to be consistent with having been fired from either weapon, but not in sufficient condition for more specificity.
D. Other Evidence. A .22 cal. Winchester pump action rifle (with the stock removed) was recovered where Marrow had been observed to throw it; outside the front passenger’s door of the Explorer. It contained nine live rounds and one expended casing. The stock was found between the front right seat and door. Found in Marrow’s shirt pocket was a cellular telephone that investigation revealed had been forcibly taken by Marrow from a neighbor several months before.
The death of Jamar Marrow was caused by a single gunshot wound inflicted by Officer Jason Amato who acted under the reasonable belief prescribed for peace officers under Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-22( c ). Officer James Borrico, while also acting within the bounds of appropriate conduct, injured no one.
Deadly force by a peace officer is justified when the officer "reasonably believes such to be necessary to: (1) defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force; or effect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody of a person whom he reasonably believes has committed or attempted to commit a felony which involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury and if, where feasible, he has given warning of his intent..." C.G.S. 53a-22( c ). It was clearly reasonable for Officer Amato to believe that his partner was being run over by an armed robber driving a large motor vehicle and that firing upon the operator was his only means to stop the vehicle. At the same time, both officers were justified in their belief that Marrow was fleeing from an attempt to commit robbery with a deadly weapon. Considering; the radio broadcast from the robbery scene; the proximity of time and place; the description of the vehicle; the sudden flight of Marrow after having been initially detained; and his subsequent frantic efforts to evade apprehension, the officers had ample information to take action. While the law requires that the officers belief needs only to be reasonable, and not necessarily correct, in this case, they were both.
Jonathan C. Benedict
Judicial District of Fairfield