Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New London Concerning the Use of Deadly Physical Force by a Waterford Police Officer Resulting in the Death of Desjon J. Edwards on June 8, 2009, in the Town of Waterford
Section 51-277a of the General Statutes provides that, whenever a peace officer in the performance of his or her duties, uses deadly physical force upon another person and such person dies as a result thereof, the Division of Criminal Justice shall cause an investigation to be made and shall determine whether the use of deadly physical force was appropriate under section 53a-22 of the General Statutes.
On June 8, 2009, such an incident occurred when a Waterford Police Officer used deadly force resulting in the death of Desjon J. Edwards in the Town of Waterford.
Supervisory Inspector Philip Fazzino was notified after the shooting and inspectors immediately went to the scene. The Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad conducted the investigation in conjunction with inspectors from this office.
It is the conclusion of the undersigned that the use of deadly physical force was appropriate. This report is filed pursuant to 51-277a(c) of the General Statutes.
On June 8, 2009, at approximately 10:10 p.m., the Waterford Emergency Communications Center received a 911 emergency call from the residence at 8 Windy Ridge Place, Waterford, Connecticut. The female caller, later identified as Allison M. Forte, age 30, reported a domestic disturbance at the residence. Waterford Police Officers Robert Yuchniuk and Matthew Fedor, as well as Sergeant Edward Lougee responded to the call at 8 Windy Ridge Place. The police dispatcher advised officers that there was an out of control male at the scene who was throwing things around the house. Upon Sgt. Lougee’s arrival, he entered the residence and saw Officer Fedor standing at the base of a stairway that led upstairs. Officer Fedor was talking to a male suspect, later identified as Desjon J. Edwards, age 28, who was upstairs and out of Sgt. Lougee’s view. There were two females standing in the living room who were later identified as Desjon Edwards’ mother, Lisa Edwards, of 33 Miner Street, Groton, Connecticut, and his girlfriend Allison M. Forte, of 8 Windy Ridge Place, Waterford, Connecticut.
As Officer Fedor was talking to Desjon Edwards, Sgt. Lougee began speaking with Lisa Edwards and Allison Forte. Lisa Edwards and Forte told Sgt. Lougee that Desjon Edwards had been at the Lawrence and Memorial Hospital on June 6, 2009, for his substance problem and was transferred to Natchaug Hospital for additional treatment. Forte stated that Desjon Edwards was discharged from Natchaug Hospital earlier today because he had refused to obey their no smoking policy. Forte said that Desjon Edwards had been drinking a lot and had threatened her. At this point, Officer Fedor was still trying to get Desjon Edwards to come downstairs but he continued to refuse. Sgt. Lougee positioned himself behind Officer Fedor and was able to see Desjon Edwards standing at the top of the stairs. Desjon Edwards began to back into the doorway of a small room that was to the left of the top of the stairs and as he did a knife fell out of his hand and landed in the door way. Officer Fedor then fired his taser at Desjon Edwards, but it had no effect on him. Desjon Edwards then turned around and started out of the room. Officer Yuchniuk discharged his taser at Desjon Edwards, which again had no effect. Sgt. Lougee then saw Desjon Edwards pick up the knife and charge across the small hallway toward Officer Yuchniuk, who was retreating into the kitchen area. As Desjon Edwards was lunging toward Officer Yuchniuk, he held the knife up and attempted to stab at Officer Yuchniuk. Sgt. Lougee began to draw his firearm as he observed Officer Fedor come into the kitchen with his firearm drawn. Officer Fedor yelled at Desjon Edwards to drop the knife. Sgt. Lougee saw Desjon Edwards stab Officer Yuchniuk and heard Officer Yuchniuk cry, "he got me." As Sgt. Lougee was raising his firearm to shoot Desjon Edwards, Officer Fedor discharged two rounds from his firearm, striking Desjon Edwards in the back and causing him to fall to the kitchen floor. While Desjon Edwards was on the floor, the knife was kicked away from his hand and he was handcuffed.
As a result of the incident, Officer Robert Yuchniuk was transported via ambulance to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, 365 Montauk Avenue, New London, Connecticut, for treatment of a stab wound to his left forearm. Paramedic Ameran Flynn, during the course of his treatment of Desjon Edwards at the scene, observed a taser probe still hooked into the right side of his face. Desjon Edwards was transported to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital for treatment of two gunshot wounds.
On June 8, 2009, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Det. DeLaura responded to 8 Windy Ridge Place in Waterford, Connecticut. During a walk through assessment of the scene, Det. DeLaura observed a taser wire with barb on the stairwell leading to the second floor. He also observed a spent taser cartridge on the second floor bathroom floor adjacent to the kitchen with the wire leading into an adjacent spare room. Taser barbs were impaled into a folded massage table and in an adjacent wall in the spare room. Det. DeLaura saw a large amount of blood like substance on the floor in the kitchen and dining room of the residence. Two spent cartridge casings were located on the floor between the kitchen and dining room.
At the scene, Det. DeLaura spoke briefly to Lisa Edwards. She told Det. DeLaura that she was present at the time of the incident. She stated that her son had an alcohol problem and had consumed "a ton" of alcoholic beverages that day. Lisa Edwards said he also suffered from depression and anxiety and had been prescribed Prozac as part of his treatment. She stated that he has been acting crazy since he began taking the Prozac. She had been trying to get him into an alcohol treatment facility all day but was unable to do so. Just prior to the incident, she drove him back to his residence at 8 Windy Ridge Place. A short time later, her son became involved in a verbal argument with his live-in girlfriend, Allison Forte. Desjon Edwards said he was going to hit Forte with something and Lisa Edwards got between them. Forte called 911 as the confrontation escalated. When police officers arrived, Lisa Edwards let them into the residence. She said the officers asked her son to step down to the main level of the house so they could speak with him. He refused to come downstairs and retreated. Lisa Edwards said the officers went upstairs to speak with him about the incident. She subsequently saw one of the officers retreating into the kitchen and dining room area as Desjon Edwards was charging at the officer. She observed one of the officers attempt to stop her son by using a taser, but he kept charging. As Lisa Edwards was telling her son to stop, she observed the other officer behind her son fire two rounds from his gun at Desjon Edwards. Lisa Edwards observed that one officer was holding his chest which had blood on it and it appeared to her that the officer had been stabbed in the chest.
Upon the issuance of a search and seizure warrant, the scene at 8 Windy Ridge Place was processed by the Eastern District Major Crime Squad. The detectives seized twenty-three items of evidence from the scene including a black handled steak knife with a blood-like substance on it located on the dining room floor near the kitchen and two Federal 40 cal. S&W shell casings located in the same room.
On June 9, 2009, at approximately 2:46 a.m., Desjon Edwards was pronounced dead at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, 365 Montauk Avenue, New London, Connecticut.
Frank Evangelista, M.D., Associate Medical Examiner, performed a postmortem examination on the body of Desjon Edwards at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on June 9, 2009, at 10:00 AM in the presence of the Connecticut State Police. The examination revealed the following evidence of trauma:
- A single small 1/8" puncture wound on the mid left cheek of the face.
- A 4"x3" area of subgaleal hemorrhage on the right side of the scalp.
- A 3 3/4" x3" area of subgaleal hemorrhage on the left side of the scalp.
- An entrance gunshot wound on the right upper back. A single metallic projectile was recovered from the soft tissue of the right upper lobe of the liver. No exit gunshot wound was identified. The path of this wound was from back to front and up to down.
- An entrance gunshot wound on the right lower back. A single metallic projectile was recovered from the area of the right lower rib cage. No exit gunshot wound was identified. The path of this wound was from back to front, down to up, and slightly right to left.
The cause of death was determined to be gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen. The manner of death was a homicide.
On 11/09/09, the Firearms Section of the Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory completed its report concerning Laboratory Case # ID-09-003309. Evidence submitted by the Eastern District Major Crime Squad were: 2 Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handguns, 6 magazines with ammunition, 2 cartridge cases and 2 metal projectiles.
The examination determined that Officer Robert Yuchniuk’s duty pistol, a Glock model 22 serial # CKL544US, was operable as received and was test fired using four cartridges from the submitted ammunition. The submitted magazines and ammunition were proper for this firearm.
Officer Matthew Fedor’s duty pistol, a Glock Model 22 serial # CKL503US, was operable as received and was test fired using four cartridges from the submitted ammunition. The submitted magazines and ammunition were proper for this firearm.
Microscopic comparisons of the two submitted fired cartridge cases to the test fired cartridge cases from both submitted firearms revealed they were fired from the Glock pistol bearing serial number CLK503US. This was Officer Matthew Fedor’s duty firearm.
Microscopic comparisons of the two submitted fired bullets to the test fired bullets from both submitted firearms were not conclusive. The submitted bullets are consistent in class characteristics as being fired from a Glock firearm but lacked the sufficient amount of individual characteristics for a conclusive identification or individualization. This is consistent with what is seen in bullets fired from Glock manufactured firearms.
Section 53a-22 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides in pertinent part:
"(c) A peace officer. . .is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person ... only when he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to: (1) Defend himself or herself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly force."
Based on the facts set forth above, Officer Fedor reasonably believed that the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself and others from the use of deadly physical force. The use of deadly physical force was, therefore, appropriate.
No further action is to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of this incident.
Dated at New London, Connecticut this 8th day of January, 2010.
MICHAEL L. REGAN
NEW LONDON JUDICIAL DISTRICT