Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford Concerning the Death of Taurean Wilson On January 10, 2009.
Introduction | Circumstances of the Incident | Office of the Chief Medical Examiner | "Jane Doe" | Taurean Wilson | Officer Todd Mona | Sergeant Frank Mormino |
Applicable Law and Analysis | Conclusion
On January 10, 2009, East Hartford Police responded to a 911 call for service at 228 Woodlawn Circle. Once there, they were confronted by Taurean Wilson, who brandished a knife, which he used to stab a K-9 before attempting to attack the K-9’s handler, Officer Todd Mona. Believing that his life was in danger, Officer Mona discharged his department-issued firearm, striking Taurean Wilson, who later died of his injuries.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a, provides as follows:
“Whenever a peace officer, in the performance of his duties, uses deadly physical force upon another person and such other person dies as a result thereof, the Division of Criminal Justice shall cause an investigation to be made and shall have the responsibility of determining whether the use of deadly physical force was appropriate under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22.”
The State’s Attorney is mindful of a policy enacted by the State’s Attorneys whereby a State’s Attorney, other than the State’s Attorney for the jurisdiction where the use of deadly force incident occurred, would be responsible for such investigations. However, as this incident occurred prior to the policy change, the undersigned State’s Attorney remained responsible for the investigation.
Upon receiving notification of the incident involving East Hartford Police, inspectors from the Hartford State’s Attorney’s Office responded to the scene. Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad was designated as the investigative agency to assist the State’s Attorney. Troopers arrived at the apartment and canvassed for witnesses, documented the scene through the use of video and digital photography and processed the scene for evidence. Troopers were assigned to seize clothing and equipment from the involved officers and take statements from them. Troopers went to the hospital to make contact with family members of Taurean Wilson, and reviewed his medical and legal background. Upon completion of their investigation, they turned their completed casebooks over to this State’s Attorney on October 2, 2009. There is no police body camera or other video recording of the incident.
These investigations are complex and require extensive investigation on the part of the Connecticut State Police and intensive review and legal analysis on the part of the State’s Attorney. The completion of the State Police phase of the process can take as long as two years. Nonetheless, the State’s Attorney acknowledges the undue delay in the completion of this report. I extend my sympathy to the loved ones of the deceased and apologize for the time it has taken to complete this report and will make myself available to them should they wish to further discuss the matter.
On January 10, 2009, at approximately 11:18 p.m., East Hartford Police received a 911 call (transcript below) from a male who identified himself as Taurean Wilson, requesting that police come to 228 Woodlawn Circle in East Hartford, for what would be described as a domestic violence incident. Wilson told the dispatcher that he takes medication and that he didn’t know what was going on but that he was “bugging out.” He then stated that he hit his girlfriend in the mouth, causing her to bleed. The dispatcher asked if she could speak to his girlfriend, but Wilson said “no” and told the dispatcher that police should hurry as “the situation [was] getting tragic.” As police were en route to the apartment, it was reported that Wilson had an outstanding arrest warrant for Sexual Assault in the First Degree.
The following is a transcript of the 911 call:
DISPATCHER: East Hartford 911, what’s the location of your emergency?
CALLER: 228 Woodlawn Circle, yo.
DISPATCHER: You said 228?
DISPATCHER: What’s the problem there, sir?
CALLER: I slapped my girl. I take medication. I don’t know what the fuck going on, yo. I’m just bugging the fuck out, yo.
DISPATCHER: Okay, so you’re having a medical problem?
DISPATCHER: Is there anyone else in the house with you?
CALLER: Yeah, my girl, she bleeding out of her mouth, yo. I just hit her with a jab, yo.
DISPATCHER: You just hit her?
CALLER: Yeah with a jab, yo. Straight directly to the mouth. I think that bitch been cheating on me … (inaudible) … cheating in front of my kids. Got my kids all mix up in some shit. He seeing shit. He having bad dreams and shit, yo.
DISPATCHER: Okay. So you hurt your girlfriend?
CALLER: That’s my baby mother, yo.
DISPATCHER: Okay. So you’re saying you hurt her?
DISPATCHER: Okay. Is it possible I could speak with her or is she injured?
CALLER: She is injured. In-jured
DISPATCHER: What is your last name sir?
CALLER: My last name’s Wilson.
DISPATCHER: Wilson? And your first name?
DISPATCHER: Spell that first name for me sir.
CALLER: T-A-U-R-E-A-N. You better hurry up. Fast man. The situation getting tragic (pause) fighting me back, yo.
DISPATCHER: Okay, well, is there any way I could speak with her, or, cause I don’t hear her fighting back. I mean, um, I don’t hear anything in the
CALLER: Yo, shit getting tight B. It’s getting tight.
DISPATCHER: Okay, is it possible I could speak with her?
CALLER: Nah, nah, no.
DISPATCHER: Okay, let me send the police department there. Are there any weapons there, sir?
CALLER: No weapons.
DISPATCHER: Okay, well now you said you hurt her. How did you hurt her?
CALLER: I jabbed that bitch, yo…[vulgar]
DISPATCHER: So you say you punched her in the face?
CALLER: In the fucking mouth…inaudible…[vulgar]. Oh, hell no. Bitch I jabbed you in your mouth.
DISPATCHER: Let me send the fire department and the police department over there okay.
DISPATCHER: All right sir. Bye.The call was put out as follows:
“228 Woodlawn Circle. Taurean Wilson dialed 911. Says he punched his girlfriend in the face. She’s bleeding. We don’t hear her in the background. We asked to speak to her and he said no. He would not let us speak to her. We have fire en route. Looks like we have a warrant for him too, felony. Standby a second. Yeah we have a Sexual Assault First warrant for him. It’s been signed. I have it in hand.”
Two hundred twenty eight (228) Woodlawn Circle is a two-story housing unit located at the end of a four-unit apartment complex. On the first floor is a living room, closet and kitchen. The rear door opens into the living room and a set of twelve stairs leads to the second floor. There was an open-shelved closet at the top of the stairs with the bathroom to the left of the closet, a bedroom to the left of the bathroom and another bedroom to the left of that bedroom.
Upon arrival at the apartment building, two officers were positioned at the front of the building. Patrol Sergeant Frank Mormino and Officer Jon Lange went to the rear. Officer Todd Mona and his K-9 Primo arrived shortly thereafter and went to the rear of the building. Officers reported that they could hear a male and a female screaming inside the apartment. According to Officer Mona, the female’s voice had a sound of “fear and distress,” while the male’s voice had the sound of “anger.” Based upon their belief that someone was in imminent danger, Officer Lange was ordered to kick in the rear door to gain entry into the apartment.
Officer Mona and his K-9, “Primo” entered first. Sergeant Mormino had his duty weapon drawn in the “low ready” position, and called out, “East Hartford Police.” The officers did not locate the female on the first floor upon entry. Sergeant Mormino looked up the stairs and saw a black male standing in the doorway to the bathroom at the top of the stairs. The black male would later be identified as Taurean Wilson. Officers shouted out several times for Wilson to lie down, but he failed to comply. Wilson was told to come down the stairs, and again, he failed to comply. Officer Mona and his K-9 started to ascend the stairs, followed by Sergeant Mormino and then Officer Lange. Officer Mona told Wilson that he would release Primo and he would be bitten unless he complied with their command to get down. Wilson continued standing, with his body bladed as if ready to fight.Officer Mona observed Wilson reach into his pocket with his right hand, as they were approximately two-thirds of the way up the stairs. He released Primo, who continued up the remaining stairs and attempted to bite Wilson on his right leg. As Officer Mona moved in to apprehend him, Wilson pulled a knife out of his right front pocket. Officer Mona heard a clicking sound, exposing a blade. Wilson raised the knife and stabbed Primo at least two times, causing Primo to fall to the floor as the dog let out a “yelp.” Wilson then raised the knife again and advanced toward Officer Mona who was within two to three feet of Wilson. Acting out of fear for his life, Officer Mona drew his handgun and discharged it several times. Wilson continued to advance toward him and he continued to back away.
Sergeant Mormino stated that he heard Officer Mona shout “no,” and saw Officer Mona back away from Wilson as several shots were fired. Sergeant Mormino stated that he saw Wilson holding an object in his right hand but could not see what it was. He saw Officer Mona backing away from the male and into a bedroom next to the bathroom as the black male continued to advance on Officer Mona. When Sergeant Mormino reached the second floor landing, after continuing to hear shots being fired, he feared that the black male was shooting at Officer Mona so he aimed his weapon at Wilson and fired one shot at which point both Officer Mona and Wilson fell to the floor.  A “Winchester” folding knife, with a 3 ½-inch blade was found near the head of Taurean Wilson. There was a blood-like substance on the blade.
Officer Lange continued upstairs and noticed a closed door to his left. He opened the door to a bedroom. On the floor in a corner was the girlfriend of Taurean Wilson. Officers handcuffed her briefly until they were able to determine there were no other persons in the room. Officers noticed that she had no markings or other signs that indicated a physical assault. She was emotional, kept calling her boyfriend’s name and wanted officers out of her apartment.
Taurean Wilson was transported by East Hartford Paramedics to Hartford Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:59 p.m. A post-mortem examination was performed by Dr. Susan Williams at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on January 11, 2009. Wilson sustained the following injuries: Penetrating gunshot wound of chest; Penetrating gunshot wound of the right flank (anterior axillary line); Penetrating gunshot wound of the right flank (mid-axillary line); Perforating gunshot wound of the right shoulder; Perforating gunshot wound of the right upper arm. Dr. Williams ruled the cause of death as Multiple Gunshot Wounds and the manner of death as Homicide. Toxicology analysis was negative for the presence of illegal drugs. No prescribed drugs were found in his system. The presence of alcohol was found in the blood at a concentration of 0.1390.
J.D. gave State Police a statement that Taurean Wilson called her at her friend’s apartment on January 10, 2009, at approximately 2:00 p.m., and asked for money. When she told him that she had no money, he became outraged and began to call her a whore, a bitch and threatened to “punch her in the fucking eye” if he saw her again. In spite of this, J.D. stated that Taurean Wilson showed up at her apartment sometime between 7-8 p.m. and seemed calm. They went into the apartment and she made him something to eat. She served him his food, which he ate while sitting on the toilet with his pants down. They then went into the bedroom. J.D. stated that she dozed off and then heard Taurean talking on his cell phone. She said he began to speak irrationally, stating, “Hurry up and get here. I punched the bitch in the mouth. She’s cheating … I’m not on my meds.” J.D. stated that she was stunned because he had not hit or harmed her at all. She stated he sat on the edge of the bed and turned the television volume down. He had on pants and a pair of boots and said “Bitch, sit the fuck down. I’ll punch you in the mouth,” then left the bedroom and closed the door. J.D. stated that she was sitting on the bed when she heard a knock on the door downstairs. The door was then kicked in. She stated that she heard Taurean laughing and then heard what sound like a dog coming up the stairs followed by footsteps. She heard a dog yelp followed by gunshots. J.D. confirmed that there was a warrant for Taurean, who was suspected of sexually assaulting her child.
Taurean Wilson was 26 years old at the time of his death. Based upon reports from his mother and girlfriend, he had been expressing mental health concerns and was not compliant with his medications. On December 8, 2008, he completed an intake with Capitol Region Mental Health Center where he had been diagnosed with “Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type.” He was first diagnosed with psychiatric difficulties around age 20. On January 6, 2009, Capitol Region called his home to reschedule his missed appointment for medication review as Wilson had been calling the pharmacy requesting medications. His mother stated that he had an appointment for January 9, 2009, but missed it.
Although Jane Doe and Taurean Wilson ended their relationship in October of 2008, they remained friends. In fact, in her statement to state police, on January 8, 2009, Jane Doe reported that she went to visit Taurean and his mother, as his mother wanted her help in convincing Taurean to take his medications. She was going to go to the doctor with him, but he refused to go.
In a statement to Connecticut State Police, Jane Doe stated that Taurean had not been taking his medication, which was prescribed for schizophrenia, and that because of this, he behaved “differently.” She did not know him to use any illegal drugs. Found on a piece of furniture at 228 Woodlawn Circle were expired bottles of asthma medications Prednisone and Singulair, two empty bottles of Risperidone, a drug used to treat certain mental/mood disorders, a bottle of Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, and a bottle of Buspirone HCL, a medication used to treat anxiety. There was also a bottle of Propranolol, a beta blocker used to treat certain heart or circulatory conditions, inside of which one could see tablets.
Taurean Wilson’s last criminal conviction was in 2004 for Larceny in the Third Degree. He also had convictions for Operating Under Suspension, Assault in the Third Degree, Violation of Probation and Operating Under the Influence. According to his mother, he was expected to turn himself in on Monday, January 12, 2009, for a warrant charging Sexual Assault in the First Degree.
Officer Todd Mona was hired by East Hartford Police Department on June 24, 2002. On December 21, 2006, he became a K-9 handler for Primo. At the time of this incident, Officer Mona and Primo were trained and certified through the New England State Police Administrators Conference and had been on numerous calls together. Additionally, Officer Mona had successfully completed firearms classroom and range training on September 11, 2008. On July 10, 2008, an internal affairs investigation was commenced against Officer Mona for a use of force incident stemming from Primo biting an arrested person. Officer Mona was exonerated of any wrongdoing.
With respect to this incident, Officer Mona stated that as Taurean Wilson stood at the top of the stairs, he had an angry look on his face. He believed Wilson to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol because he was not responding to the officers’ commands. He stated that K-9 Primo led the way up the stairs followed by Officer Mona and with Sergeant Mormino and Officer Lange right behind him. He stated that the female continued to scream. As they were approximately two-thirds of the way up the stairs, the male pulled out a knife and stabbed Primo causing Primo to drop to the floor. He stated that he was within an arm’s length of Wilson and drew his service weapon with his right hand while using his left arm to block the knife. Officer Mona stated that “it was clear my life was in serious imminent danger or death from the male’s violent action” and that he discharged his firearm while he continued to move backward into a bedroom. He stated that Wilson fell to his feet at about the same time that he fell from being shot. He reported that the time that elapsed from Primo being stabbed until the time that he fell was less than one minute.
Sergeant Frank Mormino was hired by the East Hartford Police Department in February of 1982 as a patrol officer. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1997. He had successfully completed his firearms qualification on September 11, 2008. Sergeant Mormino was the subject of an internal affairs investigation for the use of excessive force of which he was exonerated.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22(c) provides in pertinent part:
“A police officer…is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person…only when he…reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself of a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly force.”
The reasonableness of the officer’s belief is judged from both an objective and subjective standpoint. State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, 185-86, cert. denied, 262 Conn. 923 (2002); (citing State v. Prioleau, 235 Conn. 274, 286-87 (1995)). First, the officer must honestly believe that the use of deadly physical force is necessary to defend himself or another from the imminent use of deadly physical force. Id. Second, if the trier of fact determines that the officer honestly believed deadly force was necessary, the trier must then determine whether the officer’s belief was objectively reasonable. Id.
The test is not whether it was actually necessary for the officer to use deadly physical force. Rather, it is whether the officer, based on the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time, believed that such force, as opposed to a lesser degree of force, was necessary; and whether, from the perspective of a reasonable person in his circumstances, such beliefs are objectively reasonable. See, e.g., State v. Adams, 52 Conn. App. 643, 651 (1999).
The United States Supreme Court has held 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.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386- 396 (1989). In determining reasonableness, a trier must account 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.” Id. at 396-97.
Officer Mona’s discharge of his firearm, striking Taurean Wilson, constituted the use of deadly physical force. Thus, Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22(c) controls whether his use of deadly physical force was justified.
On January 10, 2009, Taurean Wilson called 911 to report that he had assaulted his girlfriend. East Hartford Police arrived at the apartment to the screams of a male and female. Upon entering the apartment the officers did not immediately locate the female. This compelled the officers to confront Taurean Wilson on the second floor for the protection of the female and which led to the use of deadly force. When the officers encountered Taurean Wilson, he stood at the top of the stairs in a fighting stance and refused to comply with police officer commands that he get down. When police approached him, Wilson pulled out a knife, which he used to stab K-9 Primo, and then immediately began to charge at the dog’s handler, Officer Todd Mona. Officer Mona was only a few feet from Mr. Wilson when Wilson stabbed K-9 Primo. Acting out of the belief that he would be seriously injured or killed, Officer Mona instinctively began to back up and discharged his firearm several times, striking Wilson, who died from his injuries. Under the circumstances as presented, Officer Mona’s belief that the use of deadly force was necessary was objectively reasonable and therefore justified in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22(c). The Division of Criminal Justice will take no further action in this matter.
Gail P. Hardy
Hartford State’s Attorney
 Officer Todd Mona was shot once in the leg. The bullet fragmented and was not expected to be removed. State Police believe that his injury could have come from his own firearm; or from Sergeant Mormino, each of whom were firing at Taurean Wilson. K-9 Primo was treated at Bolton Veterinary Hospital for four stab wounds: A wound to the ventral chest; a wound over the cranial dorsum; a wound to the top of the head; a wound adjacent to the right ear. He was expected to recover.