Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Hartford Concerning the Death of Edmanuel Reyes on May 19, 2011
Introduction | Legal Authority for the Report | Circumstances of the Incident | "Jane Doe" | Officer Nathan Saucier | Law Regarding the Use of Deadly Physical Force by a Police Officer | Determination of the Use of the Appropriateness of the Use of Deadly Physical Force
This report is issued pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a, in which an officer of the Capital Region Emergency Services Team was involved in an officer involved shooting on May 19, 2011, in the town of Manchester, resulting in the death of Edmanuel Reyes. Upon receiving notification of the incident, the undersigned State’s Attorney and Inspectors from the Hartford State’s Attorney’s Office responded to the scene and requested the services of the Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad to assist in the investigation into the use of deadly force. Central District conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation and turned their casebooks over to the undersigned on April 17, 2013.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a provides:
(a) Whenever a peace officer, in the performance of such officer’s duties, uses 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 have the responsibility of determining whether the use of physical force by the peace officer was appropriate under section 53a-22. The division shall request the appropriate law enforcement agency to provide such assistance as is necessary to determine the circumstances of the incident.
This State’s Attorney is mindful of the policy enacted by the Council of State’s Attorney 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. As this incident occurred prior to the policy change, the undersigned State’s Attorney remained responsible for the investigation of this incident and issuance of this report.
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 May 19, 2011, at 5:24 p.m. Manchester Police Department received a 911 call from Jane Doe, the wife of Edmanuel Reyes. (In accordance with Connecticut General Statues §54-86e, this individual’s identity will not be disclosed and she will be referred to as Jane Doe.) Doe reported that her husband was emotionally disturbed, armed with a gun and that she and her two children, ages 10 and 13 years old, were hiding in the attic of their Cortland Street home in Manchester. Subsequent investigation revealed that Edmanuel Reyes’ mental health had been declining for quite some time. Approximately one year prior to this incident, in May of 2010, Reyes was committed under a physician’s emergency certificate after showing erratic behavior and having visual and auditory hallucinations. Jane Doe told the treating physicians that she feared him being home with her and the children and he was subsequently hospitalized for more than a week. Records obtained from the hospitalization noted that Reyes’ psychiatric problems were compounded by substance abuse and stress from his job at United Parcel Service (UPS).
After his hospitalization, Reyes could no longer be a delivery driver and he was transferred to loading trucks for UPS on the overnight shift. His wife described a long period after his hospitalization in which Reyes was no longer drinking and compliant with his aftercare. He was prescribed Depakote, Lexapro, Seroquel, and Trazodone to treat his depression, mood disorders, and difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, between three and four weeks prior to this incident, Reyes’ behavior became erratic. He expressed beliefs that people were out to get him and that people were following him. On the Saturday prior to this incident, his wife reported that Reyes punched a friend at a birthday party for no reason.
On May 19, 2011, Jane Doe thought that Reyes worked his regular shift from 12:00 midnight to 9:05 a.m. He called her at 9:36 a.m. and they discussed everyday family matters. He called her again at 2:00 p.m. to discuss who would pick up their son from school. She went home for lunch arriving at approximately 2:20 p.m. A few minutes later, Reyes pulled in and emerged from his truck with beer and an energy drink. He went upstairs and came down with a piece of paper on which he had written that their home and his truck were bugged and warned her to be careful of what she said. He told her he would find out what was going on and she went back to work. At 4:50 p.m., Jane Doe received a text from one of their children telling her that Reyes had slashed the tires on their neighbor’s truck. She immediately left work and rushed home, arriving at approximately 5:00 p.m. Reyes was behaving erratically and accused her of hiding his silver pistol. Eventually he came downstairs with a handgun and she went upstairs with her children to hide and call 911.
Cortland Street is in a heavily populated, residential neighborhood of single-family homes in Manchester. Officers responding to Jane Doe’s 911 call blocked off the street and set up a perimeter while evacuating homes in the area. Reyes and his family lived in a single-family, two-story house at on Cortland Street approximately 100 feet west of the intersection of Campfield Road, also a residential street.
As a result of Jane Doe’s 911 call, a number of Manchester police officers arrived at the house within minutes of one another. The officers were met with gunfire from Reyes. Given the nature of the initial 911 call and fearing that Jane Doe and her two children were in imminent danger, the commanding officer on scene, Lieutenant Sean Grant, decided to attempt a forced entry into the home. At this point, Officers Koss, Wagner, Beeler and Johnson and Lieutenant Grant attempted to enter the home through the front door. Officer Koss attempted to kick in the front door without success. Lieutenant Grant tried to use his shoulder to force the door open, again without success. During this initial contact, officers reported hearing Reyes saying words to the effect that, “UPS did this to me. I’m going to die and you all are going to die.”
While attempting to enter to rescue Jane Doe and her children, Officer William Beeler was shot by Reyes. Officer Beeler reported he had been shot in the shoulder and officers abandoned their efforts to force entry and took cover from Reyes’ gunfire wherever they could find it. Some hid behind trees and others found vehicles as Reyes continued to shoot. Lieutenant Grant requested that the Manchester Police Department’s armored vehicle be deployed to extricate officers who had taken cover. Shortly thereafter, the decision was made to mobilize the Capital Region Emergency Services Team (C.R.E.S.T).
C.R.E.S.T consists of dedicated officers from ten local police departments in Greater Hartford. It exists to provide a tactical response to critical incidents like the one confronted here by the Manchester Police Department. As the team is composed of officers from various departments, they arrived on scene at various times. C.R.E.S.T commanders were able to deploy officers in locations surrounding the Cortland Street home. Among the C.R.E.S.T officers present was Glastonbury Police Officer Nathan Saucier who was deployed in a vacant house at 14 Cortland Street, across the street from the Reyes home.
Officer Saucier has been a Glastonbury police officer since October of 2002. He joined C.R.E.S.T in 2006 and became a Marksman/Observer in 2008. In a statement to Connecticut State Police investigators, Officer Saucier stated that he was working his regular shift at Glastonbury Police Department when he received notification of a C.R.E.S.T call-out at a house on Courtland Street in Manchester at 5:43 p.m. He arrived on scene to the sound of gunfire and officers attempting to take cover from gunfire while other officers were escorting neighborhood residents from their homes. He spoke to team commanders to receive his assignment and received an authorization to “neutralize” the suspect if the suspect presented himself. Officer Saucier was equipped with a Remington 700 LTR .308 bolt action rifle that was loaded with five rounds. The optic was a Luepold Mark IV 14x mil dot scope. The ammunition was .308 168 gr Hornady Tap.
C.R.E.S.T was able to establish contact with Jane Doe who reported that she and her children were now hiding in a second floor bathroom and that Reyes was going to the second floor from time to time to reload his weapons. At 6:46 p.m., Jane Doe reported to police that her husband went to the bathroom where they were hiding to say goodbye. Reyes told his wife, “This is it. This is it.” Reyes kissed his two children goodbye and said he wasn’t coming back.
While C.R.E.S.T spoke to Jane Doe, Reyes called the Manchester Police Department at one point to request delivery of a pizza. During this conversation, Reyes agreed to allow his wife and children to leave the residence. This information was conveyed to Jane Doe and she exited the bathroom with the children and went into the bedroom. She found Reyes in the bedroom reloading his guns. The children went ahead of her running out of the house. She heard someone yelling “run, run” and she followed. By approximately 7:09 p.m., Jane Doe and her children were ushered to safety and brought to the hospital for evaluation.
At 7:10 p.m., Reyes approached the front door of his home. He had given no indication to anyone at any time that he wished to surrender. He approached the door armed with both a shotgun and a semi-automatic handgun. Officer Saucier observed Reyes open the door and look left and right. When Reyes leaned out the door, Officer Saucier fired a single shot striking Reyes in the head. It is the only gunshot wound Reyes sustained and was determined at a subsequent autopsy to be the cause of his death.
It is significant to note that during the entirety of his incident, responding officers were under intermittent gunfire from Reyes. He fired at least seventy-three rounds from both a shotgun and semi-automatic handguns. One of these shots struck Officer William Beeler and six nearby houses were struck by Reyes’ gunfire.
Section 53a-22(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes permits a police officer to use deadly physical force upon another person when he reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. Section 53a-3(5) of the Connecticut General Statutes defines “deadly physical force” as physical force that can be reasonably expected to cause death or serious physical injury. Section 53a-3(4) of the Connecticut General Statutes defines “serious physical injury” as physical injury, which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
The test to determine an officer’s reasonable belief is both subjective and objective. First, the officer must believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or another from the imminent use of deadly physical force. The police officer must honestly believe that this level of force is necessary in the immediate circumstances. In other words, the subjective portion of the test considers whether the police officer believed the use of deadly physical force was his only reasonable choice under the circumstances.
The second part of the test requires that the officer’s belief be objectively reasonable. State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, cert. denied, 262 Conn. 923 (2002). The test is not whether it was in fact necessary for the officer to use deadly physical force in order to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force. The test is whether the officer believed it was necessary to use deadly physical force and whether such belief was objectively reasonable, based on the facts and circumstances known to the police officer at the time the decision to use deadly force was made. Cf.State v. Silveira, 198 Conn. 454 (1986); State v. Adams, 52 Conn. App. 643 (1999).
The United States Supreme Court has explained this test in a civil rights case: “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. . .The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance of the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions- in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 at 396-397 (1989). “The appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them.” Scott v. Henrich, 39 F.3d. 912, 915 (9th Cir. 1992).
Applying the Graham test under circumstances similar to those found here, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Long v. Honolulu, 511 F.3d. 901 (2007) determined that a SWAT team officer who killed a gunman acted reasonably given that the gunman had already wounded two people earlier that night, was armed, was agitated and had threatened to shoot the police. The court recognized the imminent threat to life posed by an agitated gunman who had already demonstrated a willingness to shoot people deeming reasonable the decision of the officer to use deadly force. In this case, of course, Reyes was not only threatening officers, he was an imminent deadly threat to the safety of others, having already shot one and sporadically firing upon officers throughout the roughly one-hundred minutes over which these events unfolded.
The evidence establishes that, based on the information known to Officer Saucier at the time Officer Saucier fired the single shot that resulted in the death of Reyes, Officer Saucier had a subjective belief that deadly force was necessary to prevent Reyes from the imminent use of deadly physical force. At that time, he was confronted with an armed individual who had already shot one police officer and had continued to fire on officers in the area, striking nearby vehicles and homes. Although Officer Saucier was aware that Jane Doe and her two children had escaped from the home, the threat posed by Reyes had not abated. Reyes had demonstrated by virtue of both his words and conduct that he was an imminent threat to the safety of others. He demonstrated no inclination to surrender either by word or deed. When Reyes appeared at the front door after his family’s escape from the house, Officer Saucier had reason to believe Reyes would continue to fire indiscriminately upon officers in the area, as he had been doing for more than an hour, necessitating the use of deadly force by police.
Officer Saucier’s subjective belief that deadly force was necessary is objectively reasonable. The presence of an armed individual, who had already fired more than seventy shots at officers and had already wounded at least one officer, presented an imminent danger to the officers and the community. Because of the repeated gunfire from Reyes, officers had been unable to safely enter the home to apprehend him. Despite opportunities to surrender, Reyes continued to fire on the officers. Under the circumstances present in this case, it seems beyond dispute that any reasonable officer confronting the same scenario would have found the use of deadly force necessary to eliminate the immediate danger to others.
Officer Saucier’s use of deadly force was appropriate under applicable Connecticut law and no further action is to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of this incident.
Gail P. Hardy
Judicial District of Hartford