Report to the Chief State's Attorney Pursuant to Section 51-277a of the Connecticut General Statutes: Shooting Death of Brian Christopher Batten on March 8, 2008
Judicial District of New Haven
July 11, 2008
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The following report concerning the shooting death of Brian Christopher Batten, age 32, on March 8, 2008, around 9:00 - 9:30 p.m., is prepared and submitted by Michael Dearington, State’s Attorney, Judicial District of New Haven, pursuant to Section 51-277a, of the Connecticut General Statutes. The lethal shot was fired by East Haven Sergeant John Miller after he and other officers were threatened with the use of deadly force by Brian Batten near 33 William Street, New Haven. The report and conclusions are based upon the thorough and professional investigation conducted by the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad, in conjunction with the State Police Forensic Science Crime Laboratory, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and with the cooperation of the Connecticut State Police, the New Haven Police Department and the East Haven Police Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office for the Judicial District of New Haven.
On May 8, 2008, at about 8:40 p.m., the East Haven Fire Department received a 911 call concerning a domestic dispute and a man with a gun at an apartment building at 70 High Street. Such information was transmitted to the police department.
Sergeant Edward Lennon who was on patrol immediately responded to the address which was an apartment building. In the parking lot he observed and spoke to a lady who indicated she was the girlfriend of Brian Batten. She stated, referring to Batten, that "he’s crazy, he just stole guns, he’s stealing my car, he’s nuts! He has a gun!" She pointed to a man later identified as Batten entering a Silver Mitsubishi Lancer located in the far end of the lot. The car was registered to his girlfriend. Sergeant Lennon noticed an unknown object in his hand as the woman was heard to say "he still has the gun." Sergeant Lennon while activating his emergency lights drove toward the Mitsubishi. Batten in turn drove toward Sergeant Lennon causing the latter to swerve to avoid a collision. Sergeant Lennon followed Batten as the latter sped out of the lot, took a right on High Street and left on Kimberly Street. He then recklessly turned right on Forbe’s Place, striking an oncoming vehicle. During such flight Batten proceeded through several red lights. East Haven Police Sergeant John Miller, in a marked vehicle, took up pursuit behind Sergeant Lennon near the intersection of Kimberly and High Streets.
Batten turned left on to Saltonstall Parkway and proceeded on to Frontage Road. He approached a V intersection where to the left was I-95 Southbound and to the right Frontage Road. Batten, at such intersection struck sand barrels causing Sgt. Lennon to veer right while Batten veered left onto I-95. Sgt. Miller followed Batten onto I-95. Batten thereupon increased his speed to about 65 miles per hour as he crossed the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. Batten continued over the bridge exiting to the right onto Route 34 and proceeded into downtown New Haven. He exited to the right onto College Street. He then drove on to York Street which runs parallel to College Street and proceeded in a northerly direction. He took a right onto and going the wrong way on Grove Street after having traveled about six blocks from Route 34. At that point in time New Haven Police had attempted to limit traffic on Grove Street. Sergeant Miller continued to follow Batten while State Police and New Haven Police had joined in on the pursuit.
After traveling about six blocks against the flow of traffic on Grove Street, Batten crossed State Street and entered onto William Street.
Batten drove a short distance and reached a point where William Street makes a 90 degree right turn. At such location he, after passing 33 William Street immediately made a left turn into a grassy lot. He then turned left on the far side of the shed located behind the house at 33 Williams Street.
Sergeant Miller described hearing a crash after Batten struck a chain length fence which extended from the back of the shed.
Less than two feet to Batten’s right was another chain length fence which intersected with the fence in front of him. Batten was blocked on three sides.
Sergeant Miller stopped his car approximately six feet behind Batten. Batten attempted to drive in reverse but apparently the car was hung up on an object and the tires ineffectively spun causing them to smoke.
Sergeant Miller activated his spotlight and his roof top strobe lights were on. Sergeant Miller exited his vehicle and with his weapon drawn sought shelter behind his open front door. Sergeant Miller and later other officers, as verified by neighbors, shouted numerous times for Batten to show his hands. During such time Batten shifted his car from forward to reverse in a fruitless effort to back up. Other officers including East Haven, New Haven and Connecticut State police officials responded. Many of them were ordering Batten to show his hands and turn off the car. Officers were shouting that Batten had a gun. Batten’s efforts to open the driver’s door were thwarted as the shed blocked the door.
Edward Benecchi a K9 officer and his dog approached the rear of Batten’s car several times and on each occasion Batten, still in the driver’s seat, raised a silver handgun.
On Benecchi’s last attempt Batten turned in his seat and pointed the gun at the Trooper. He then pointed the gun at Sergeant Miller. Miller had previously moved from the left side of his vehicle to a tree immediately on the right side of his police car which was about 8 feet from Batten.
Sergeant Miller fearing for the safety of Trooper Benecchi himself and others fired two shots from his service weapon at Batten. One shot struck Batten in the back and the other apparently missed Batten and went through the windshield.
Police cautiously approached the car since immediately after the shots were fired some movement was detected. However Batten appeared unconscious upon reaching the vehicle. A silver revolver was in his hand. He was removed from the car, cuffed, and patted down. A black revolver was found in his back pocket. Also, two syringes were found in his pocket and a digital scale commonly used for weighing marijuana was found in the car. It exhibited leafy plant like residue.
He was administered to by paramedics and then taken to the hospital where he died.
An autopsy disclosed that Batten died as a result of a bullet wound to the back. A lead core of a bullet was recovered from Batten’s chest area.
Also, blood toxicological examination, disclosed a level of .19% alcohol and the presence of cocaine.
Also, forensic examination of the silver revolver taken from Batten’s hand showed it was unloaded and not operable. The revolver in his pocket was operable but not loaded.
Although it can be said that the loss of human life under the circumstance attendant in this case is regrettable it is undeniably clear that Sgt. Miller in the performance of his duties was fully justified in using deadly physical force for the protection of himself and other officers.
Based upon the initial report in the 911 call and statements to Sgt. Lennon both made by Mr. Batten’s girlfriend, Batten was armed and dangerous. Such threat was further confirmed by Batten’s reckless driving, his later refusal to submit to police, his threatened use of a pistol and eventual pointing of such pistol at two officers who were no more than eight feet away from Batten.
It is legally irrelevant that the weapon was not loaded because an officer must assume that under the circumstances the revolver was loaded and Batten intended to fire at one or more of the officers.
The officer’s at the scene gave Batten every opportunity to drop his weapon and submit to police authority. In fact one neighbor who witnessed the standoff stated to police investigators that he was impressed that police offered the suspect so many opportunities to drop his weapon before firing at him.
Although Mr. Batten’s motive is not legally relevant in this situation the investigation disclosed a reliable history of using methamphetamines and more recently he was heavily addicted to and a regular user of crack cocaine. As previously mentioned alcohol and cocaine was in his system at the time of death. Also, Batten had a history of incarceration in his home state of Iowa. He was obviously a very troubled person.
However, if there was ever a situation where the use of deadly force by a law enforcement officer was envisioned by Section 53a-22 of our statutes, the Fourth amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the parameters annunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court, this is such a scenario.
Accordingly, although what happened on the evening of March 8, 2008, will never be forgotten by the involved officers, their family, friends and colleagues, as well as no doubt Mr. Batten’s family, it is a closed matter as far as the Division of Criminal Justice,. The use of fatal force by officers was not only fully justified by law but there was no alternative course of conduct available to police.
Section 53a-22, Connecticut General Statutes, captioned "Use of physical force in making an arrest or preventing escape", provides, in part, that:
A peace officer . . . is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person only when he reasonably believes such is 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 indicated:
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. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 389, 396 (1989) .
Also, in Graham, the Court stated that:
The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often 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.
(T)he "reasonableness inquiry in an excessive fore case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. Supra, p. 397.
The reasonableness of the inquiry depends only upon the officer’s knowledge of circumstances immediately at the moment that he made the split-second decision to employ deadly force. Maria Salim, Administratrix v. William Proulx, 93 F.3d 86, 92 (2d Cir. 1996). (East Hartford Police Department’s police officer’s fatal shooting of individual).
Also, an officer’s actions may be found reasonable even where "officers of reasonable competence could disagree" on the issue. Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).