Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New London Concerning the Use of Deadly Physical Force by a Norwich Police Officer Resulting in the Death of Michael Dugas on February 24, 2013, in the City of Norwich
Summary | Circumstances of the Incident | Applicable Law | Conclusion
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 February 24, 2013, such an incident occurred when Norwich Police Officers used deadly force resulting in the death of Michael Dugas in the City of Norwich. Supervisory Inspector Philip Fazzino of the Office of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New London 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. Detective Daniel Cargill submitted the completed investigatory casebook which this writer has adopted and incorporated into his report. 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 Sunday, February 24, 2013, at approximately 7:18 p.m. Norwich Police received a 911 call from a male, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Caller ID indicated the phone number was (860) 887-0184. The male, later determined to be Michael Dugas, d.o.b. 12-25-60, of 172 Laurel Hill Avenue, Norwich, reported seeing a white male with a gun on the green located at River and Laurel Hill avenues. The 911 dispatcher observed that the call originated from 171 Laurel Hill Avenue. Norwich police officers were dispatched to the green on Laurel Hill Avenue for a reported white male with a gun. Upon arrival Dugas was observed standing in the center of the park with his hands concealed in his sweatshirt pocket. Officers took cover around the park and attempted to engage Dugas in conversation and have him show his hands. All attempts were unsuccessful. A K-9 officer thereafter ordered Dugas to lie on the ground with his hands out or the officer would release his K-9. After refusing the third command to lie on the ground, Dugas drew a black revolver from his sweatshirt pocket and pointed it directly at the K-9 officer. One officer yelled to Dugas to drop the gun. Dugas refused and continued to point his gun at the officer. Officers then discharged their weapons, striking Dugas six times. Dugas fell to the ground. Officers approached Dugas, kicked the gun out of his reach and handcuffed him.
Dugas was transported to the Backus Hospital for treatment, where he was pronounced deceased. The revolver Dugas pointed at the officer was a full-sized pellet gun, a Daisy Powerline Model 44C02 replica of a Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44-caliber revolver.
The following Norwich Police officers were present when Michael Dugas was shot and mortally wounded: Sergeant Steven Lamantini, Officer Kyle Besse, Officer Richard Cannata, Officer Chase Chiangi, Officer Mark Dean, Officer Anthony Marceau, Officer Greg McDonald and Officer Scott Meikle. On the night of the shooting all officers cooperated with investigators' documentation of the scene. Afterward the officers, on advice of their union attorneys, refused to be interviewed by investigators. Instead statements were prepared by the officers and their union attorneys. The statements were signed and sworn to before a Norwich Police supervisor during the month of April 2013, except for Sergeant Lamantini's statement, which was signed and sworn to on July 13, 2013.
On Sunday, February 24, 2013, at approximately 11 :30 a.m., Michael Dugas arrived at the apartment of his friend, Laura Sheldon. Sheldon lived across the street from Dugas, at 171 Laurel Hill Avenue, Apartment #2. According to her, he spent much of the day watching television and drinking vodka. At approximately 5:30 p.m., Dugas left Sheldon's apartment to go home. At approximately 6:30 p.m., Dugas called Sheldon from Sheldon's downstairs landlord's cordless home phone. Sheldon stated Dugas was slurring his words and sounded intoxicated. He walked upstairs to Sheldon's apartment with the cordless phone as he talked with Sheldon. Sheldon met Dugas at her front door and while they were together, Dugas called his friend Peter Provost and left a message on his voicemail. Dugas talked about a cove and that Peter would know what to do. Dugas then dialed another number and said there is a white man with a gun on the green. Dugas then handed the phone to Sheldon. Sheldon said hello into the receiver of the cordless phone but there was no one on the line. Dugas said, "I love you" repeatedly to Sheldon as he left the apartment building and walked toward the green. Sheldon called her landlord from the cordless phone and described what Dugas had just said. While on the same cordless phone that Dugas had just called from Sheldon received two calls from the City of Norwich that she did not answer. Sheldon suspected it was the 911 operator.
The Norwich Police dispatcher dispatched officers to the Laurel Hill Avenue park for the reported white male with a gun. The park is a rectangular flat green with mature trees along the perimeter. River Avenue borders the west side of the park. Center Street borders the north side of the park. Laurel Hill Avenue borders the east side of the park. The south side of the park is adjacent to private residences. There are three streetlights along the east side of the park, which illuminate Laurel Hill Avenue. There are two streetlights along the west side of the park, which illuminate River Avenue. There are no lights within the park. The mature trees along the perimeter of the park preclude some of the ambient light from the elevated streetlights from illuminating the interior of the park.
Norwich police officers Cannata and Besse were in the area of Laurel Hill Avenue at the time Michael Dugas called 911 and were the first officers to arrive at the park. They parked their assigned cruisers in the area of the southeast corner of the park.
They observed a white male standing in the center of the park with his hands in his sweatshirt front pocket. Officer Besse and Cannata took a position outside the park on the east side using a tree located inside the park as cover. Officers Besse asked the male what his name was. Dugas gave no response. Officer Besse and Cannata repeatedly ordered Dugas to take his hands out of his pockets. Dugas looked at Officer Cannata for a moment but then looked back down and continued to pace back and forth in the center of the park. Dugas failed to comply with any of the officers' requests.
Officer Chiangi arrived and parked his assigned cruiser facing west on Center Street with his cruiser's spotlight illuminating Dugas in the center of the park. Officer Chiangi exited his cruiser and took cover behind a white truck parked on Center Street. Officers Cannata and Besse continued to attempt to engage Dugas in conversation without success. Officer Chiangi returned to his cruiser and used the cruiser's loud speaker to communicate with Dugas. Officer Chiangi announced, "Show us your hands and get on the ground. We want to help you." Dugas looked toward Officer Chiangi and shouted. Officer Chiangi could not hear what Dugas had said. Officer Chiangi again announced over the loudspeaker, "We are not here to hurt you, show us your hands and get on the ground." Dugas ignored Officer Chiangi's request and continued to pace in the center of the park with his hands in his pockets.
Officer McDonald arrived and parked his cruiser on Laurel Hill. He noticed that the male in the center of the park had his hands inside his jacket pockets and was not responding to any of Officer Besse's commands. Officer McDonald made his way to the other side of the park across from Officers Besse and Cannata. Officer McDonald began to talk with Dugas. Officer McDonald asked Dugas why he was standing in the middle of the park. Dugas stated he "grew up here" and "this was his park." Officer McDonald told Dugas he was going to come over the fence and talk with him. Dugas responded, "No, don't!" Officer McDonald asked him why. Dugas responded that they had "raped his mother a long time ago." Officer McDonald told Dugas that he did not know anything about that and that he was not from Connecticut. Dugas responded that he "knew that." Officer McDonald again told Dugas that he wanted to come over to his side of the fence and talk with him. Dugas responded, "No, don't, it won't be good." Officer McDonald asked Dugas who it would not be good for. Dugas did not answer. Dugas did not respond to Officer McDonald's requests to take his hands out of his pocket. During his attempts to communicate with Dugas, Dugas said his name was Mike but did not want to use his last name. Dugas continued to pace in circles in the center of the park as Officer McDonald attempted to reengage him in a conversation.
Sergeant Lamantini arrived and observed Officer McDonald on the west side of the park attempting to speak with Dugas. The initial responding officers had closed the surrounding roads to traffic with their cruisers and had taken positions on the outside perimeter of the park. The cruisers' spotlights were illuminating the center of the park where Dugas was pacing. Sergeant Lamantini requested Officer Meikle and his K-9 partner, Kimo, to respond to the scene. Officer Dean arrived on scene and took a position behind a large tree along the northeast side of the interior of the park. Officer Meikle and his K-9 partner arrived and took a position with Sergeant Lamantini inside the park behind a tree located along the east side of the park just south of Officer Dean. At that time, Officer Marceau also arrived, retrieved his department rifle from his cruiser, and positioned himself behind a tree within the north end of the park. Officer McDonald continued to engage Dugas in conversation and attempted to have Dugas remove his hands from his pocket. Sergeant Lamantini announced over his radio that Officer Meikle was taking over communication with Dugas.
Officer Meikle called out, "Mike." Dugas responded, "What!" as he quickly turned and faced Officer Meikle. Officer Meikle announced, "Mike, Norwich Police with a canine, I need you to get on the ground now with your hands out, or I will send the dog and you may get bit." Dugas squared his stance toward Officer Meikle and continued staring in Officer Meikle's direction. Officer Meikle stepped out from behind the tree and used his flashlight to illuminate his canine so Dugas could see the dog. Officer Meikle asked Dugas if he could see the dog and again announced, "Mike, Norwich Police with a canine, I need you to get on the ground now with your hands out, or I will send the dog and you may get bit." Dugas began to remove his right hand from his pocket, but it appeared his hand was stuck on the inside of the pocket. Dugas then removed his left hand from the pocket and used it to manipulate his sweatshirt pocket. Dugas continued to pull his right hand out of his sweatshirt pocket and emerged with a dark colored revolver. Dugas extended his arm and pointed the handgun directly at Officer Meikle. Officer Meikle immediately yelled, "Gun, drop the gun." and drew his handgun from the holster as he backed up to the tree he had used as cover. Other officers began shouting, "Drop the gun." Dugas did not drop the gun and continued to point it at Officer Meikle. Officers Meikle, Dean, McDonald, Chiangi, Besse and Cannata all fired several rounds from their assigned Smith and Wesson .40-caliber handguns until Dugas spun around and dropped to the ground. Officer Marceau also had fired several rounds from his department rifle. Sergeant Lamantini did not fire a weapon during this incident. Officers Meikle, McDonald and Dean approached Dugas who was on the ground, the revolver he had been holding was on the ground next to his right hand. Officers kicked the handgun out of the reach of Dugas and placed him in handcuffs. Dugas was searched for more weapons; none were found. Sergeant Lamantini radioed to dispatch that there were shots fired and requested an ambulance. Dugas was transported to Backus Hospital where he was pronounced deceased with multiple gunshot wounds.
The firearm survey of Officer Kyle Besse's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRJ 3687) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of sixteen rounds, fifteen in the magazine and one in the chamber. Upon inspection, there was one live round in the weapon's chamber and ten rounds in the magazine, which was in the weapon. Based upon this survey it is believed that Officer Besse fired five (5) rounds from his duty weapon.
The firearm survey of Officer Richard Cannata's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRJ 3689) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of sixteen rounds, fifteen in the magazine and one in the chamber. Upon inspection, there was one live round in the weapon's chamber and six rounds in the magazine, which was in the weapon. Based upon this survey it is believed that Officer Cannata fired nine (9) rounds from his duty weapon.
The firearm survey of Officer Chase Chiangi's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRJ 3609) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of sixteen rounds, fifteen in the magazine and one in the chamber. Upon inspection, there was one live round in the weapon's chamber and fourteen rounds in the magazine, which was in the weapon. Based upon this survey it is believed that Officer Chiangi fired one (1) round from his duty weapon.
The firearm survey of Officer Mark Dean's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRJ 3300) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of sixteen rounds, fifteen in the magazine and one in the chamber. Upon inspection, there was one live round in the weapon's chamber and twelve rounds in the magazine, which was in the weapon. Based upon this survey it is believed that Officer Dean fired three (3) rounds from his duty weapon.
The firearm survey of Officer Anthony Marceau's duty rifle (DPMS Panther Arms .223-caliber rifle, serial number F129802K) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of thirty rounds with only twenty-eight rounds loaded in the magazine with an empty chamber. Upon inspection, the weapon had been made safe and the live round in the chamber was cleared and reloaded into the magazine prior to this survey. The magazine contained eighteen live rounds. Based upon this survey it is believed that Officer Marceau fired ten (10) rounds from his duty rifle. A firearm survey of Officer Marceau's duty handgun, which was in his possession at the lime of the incident showed it had not been fired.
The firearm survey of Officer Greg McDonald's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRJ 3286) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of sixteen rounds, fifteen in the magazine and one in the chamber. Upon inspection, there was one live round in the weapon's chamber and seven rounds in the magazine, which was in the weapon. Based upon this survey it is believed Officer McDonald fired eight (8) rounds from his duty weapon.
The firearm survey of Officer Scott Meikle's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRJ 3679) showed that his weapon had a total ammunition capacity of sixteen rounds, fifteen in the magazine and one in the chamber. Upon inspection, there was one live round in the weapon's chamber and ten rounds in the magazine, which was in the weapon. Based upon this survey it is believed that Officer Meikle fired five (5) rounds from his duty weapon.
The firearm survey of Sergeant Steve Lamantini's duty weapon (Smith & Wesson M&P .40-caliber pistol, serial number MRM 5293) indicated that his weapon was not fired during the incident.
A firearm survey of the revolver Michael Dugas pointed at police showed that it was a Daisy Powerline 44 C02 pellet revolver serial number 7F02918. The pistol did not have pellets loaded in the revolving cylinder but it did have a C02 canister installed in it. It is impossible to determine if the revolver had been loaded with pellets. Witnesses stated they heard a single "pop" and then multiple gunshots.
Samuel Barile of Laurel Hill Avenue provided a written statement. He stated that he looked out his window and saw several police officers, with their guns drawn, around the park shouting orders to an older white male who was standing in the center of the park. The police were telling him to show them his hands. The older white male was wearing a red jacket and blue sweatshirt. His hands were in the jacket he was wearing. A police officer with a dog arrived and was telling the male that he was going to send his dog if he did not show his hands. The male was walking in circles and mumbling something. The male did take his left hand out of his jacket and held it up, but then put it back in his jacket. The police officer with the dog looked like he was about to let the dog go when the older male pulled his right hand out of his jacket and pointed a handgun at the dog and police. The male fired his gun once and then the police shot at him until the male went down.
Larry Ewoldt Sr., stepfather of Michael Dugas, provided a written statement. He stated he owns the house located at 172 Laurel Hill Avenue and allowed Michael to live there alone. Michael had a long history of alcohol abuse and depression. Michael in the past had told his family that he wanted to commit suicide by jumping into the river. The river is the area where in 2003 Michael left his late wife's ashes after she had died of brain cancer. Mr. Ewoldt recalled that Michael had been forcibly committed to a hospital at least once over the past two or three years. Mr. Ewoldt stated that he had spoken to Michael on February 24, 2013, and that at the time, Michael was watching the Daytona 500 at his friend Laura's house and that he talked to Michael sometime later that evening after the race. Michael wanted to borrow his car on Tuesday because he had a dentist appointment and a doctor appointment. Mr. Ewoldt stated that Michael seemed okay when they talked on the phone that day. He believed Michael was taking some type of medicine for depression and the medication Lunesta for sleep.
Dawn Gothers of River Avenue provided a written statement. She stated that she was in her third floor apartment when she heard police instructing a male in his fifties wearing a red coat and blue jeans to get on the ground. The male told police he was not getting on the ground. The male's hands were in his pockets. Gothers watched from her small bathroom window as police continued to instruct the male to get on the ground. The police cruiser lights illuminated the male who was pacing in the middle of the park. The police were instructing the male to do something when the male quickly pulled his hands and arms up. At that point a shot went off and then several other shots went off until the male fell to the ground. Gothers did not see a gun in the male's hands during the incident.
Peter Gothers of River Avenue provided a written statement. He stated that he was on the front porch of his house and saw several police officers taking cover with their guns drawn. He saw a male wearing a red/orange parka coat and possibly blue jeans in the middle of the park. Police repeatedly ordered the male to get on the ground. The male was walking back and forth, as police were yelling at him to get down. The male had his left hand in his parka and his right hand down at his side. As police were commanding him to get to the ground, the male pulled his right arm up as if he was going to shake someone's hand. As soon as his arm went up Gothers heard shots from some of the police officers until the male fell to the ground. Gothers stated he and his wife viewed this from approximately one hundred and seventy eight yards away.
Richard Jankowski of Laurel Hill Avenue gave a written statement. He stated that he was on his front porch when he saw a male in the park whom he thought looked like his neighbor Michael Dugas (whom he knew as Michael Ewoldt). Police were telling Michael that they were there to help him. The police repeatedly told Michael to take his hands out of his pockets as he paced back and forth. Jankowski stated this went on for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Michael took one of his hands out of his pocket as he was talking and gesturing to the police. Then there were several gunshots, which lasted just a few seconds. Michael was on the ground and police went over to him while he was on the ground.
Paul Johnson of Laurel Hill Avenue provided a written statement. He stated he was outside when his neighbor told him that Mike was in trouble in the park. Johnson looked over toward the park and saw Mike standing in the park wearing his red jacket.
Mike moved a little and Johnson heard several gunshots. Mike then fell flat down on his face. Three officers went to him and Johnson heard one of the officers say, "Hands clear."
Dominic Kingsley of Laurel Hill Avenue provided a written statement. He stated that when he looked out his second floor apartment window he saw several police officers surrounding the park down the street. Two of the officers were positioned on the southbound lane of Laurel Hill Avenue and had their guns drawn. A cruiser spotlight illuminated an individual who was pacing back and forth in the middle of the park. The individual in the park had his hands in his sweatshirt pockets. Several of the officers told him to remove his hands from his pockets That continued on for approximately ten minutes. Suddenly the individual removed one hand from his pocket and pointed what appeared to be a handgun toward the officers and fired one shot. He fired one to three shots before officers began firing. Kingsley stated that he saw the individual stagger and fall to the ground after being struck. Several of the rounds were striking the ground and snow in the area where the individual was standing. Three police officers approached Dugas, handcuffed him, and began rendering first aid.
Katherine Marceau of Laurel Hill Avenue provided a written statement. She stated that she had known Mike for approximately five years and knew he lived in the house his father owns on Laurel Hill Avenue. She said Mike was a nice person who would help anyone do anything but he suffered from depression and emotional issues. At about 5:00 p.m., Mike asked to borrow her cordless phone, telephone number (860) 887-0184, because his cellular phone did not have any minutes on it. Mike called Laura from the phone and walked upstairs to her apartment. Marceau could tell that Dugas had been drinking and appeared intoxicated. Marceau called Laura to tell her not to allow Mike to touch any of the light switches. Mike had told Laura earlier that he would repair or replace a switch for her. During the conversation with Laura, Marceau asked her if she had given any beer to Mike, which Lauren said she had not. Laura called her back and reported that Mike had called a number from the cordless phone and said into the phone that there was a white male with a gun in Greenville. Marceau guessed that Mike was speaking about the green next to the house. Marceau looked out her back door and saw Mike standing in the park with his red jacket on. A police officer came around the corner and told her to get back in the house, which she did. Marceau went to the front porch and heard gunshots. She walked out to the sidewalk and saw Mike on the ground in the park. Additionally, Marceau stated that a couple of days earlier Mike had talked about walking out into traffic. He had also mentioned that he should have never sold his gun. Mike had talked in the past about hanging himself from the second floor apartment neighbor's tree.
Geoffrey McLean of Laurel Hill Avenue provided a written statement. He stated he saw a police officer outside his home. He looked out and saw a white male in his fifties or sixties with a red jacket in the park. The police were telling the male to get down on the ground and put his hands behind his head. The male was gesturing with his left hand while his right hand was in his pocket. This went on for approximately ten minutes. The male then pointed a gun that was in his right hand toward the area of the K-9 officer. Then there was a lot of gunfire as the male collapsed. Three officers went up to the male and handcuffed him.
Associate Medical Examiner Dr. Frank Evangelista conducted a post-mortem exam of Michael Dugas. Dr. Evangelista observed six entrance wounds to Dugas' torso and thigh. Two corresponding exit wounds were located on his lower back and left thigh. Dr. Evangelista removed three projectiles from the chest area of Dugas and one projectile from his left thigh. A sample of Dugas' blood was drawn and submitted to the toxicology department of the Chief Medical Examiner's Office for examination. Dugas' blood was analyzed and determined to contain 0.27% of alcohol, which is a "BAC." of 0.27.
Section 53a-22 (c) of the General Statutes permits a police officer to use deadly physical force upon another person when he reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. The test to determine reasonableness 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. Second, the belief must be objectively reasonable. See State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, cert. denied, 262 Conn. 923 (2002). The burden is on the state to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of self-defense as set forth in §53a-22. State v. Smith, supra, 73 Conn. App. at 185-86.
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. See 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 (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 CiL 1992).
Based upon the preceding facts and circumstance and the applicable law found in Connecticut General Statutes §53a-22 the undersigned finds that the Norwich police officers reasonably believed that the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend themselves and others from the use of deadly physical force. The use of deadly physical force was, therefore, appropriate. I would like to thank the Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad and the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Forensic Science Laboratory for their roles in this investigation. In addition, I would like to thank the Norwich Police Department for its assistance and cooperation.
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 15th day of April, 2014.
MICHAEL L. REGAN
JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF NEW LONDON