Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk Concerning the Use of Deadly Force Resulting in the Death of Christopher Andrews in Fairfield, Connecticut, on February 16, 2016
Connecticut General Statute 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.
(b) In causing such an investigation to be made, the Chief State’s Attorney shall, (1) as provided in section 51-281, designate a prosecutorial official from a judicial district other than the judicial district in which the incident occurred to conduct the investigation, or (2) as provided in subsection (a) of section 51-285, appoint a special assistant state’s attorney or special deputy assistant state’s attorney to conduct the investigation. The Chief State’s Attorney shall, upon the request of such prosecutorial official or special prosecutor, appoint a special inspector or special inspectors to assist in such investigation.
(c) Upon the conclusion of the investigation of the incident, the division shall file a report with the Chief State’s Attorney which shall contain the following: (1) The circumstances of the incident, (2) a determination of whether the use of physical force by the peace officer was appropriate under section 53a-22, and (3) any future action to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of the incident. The Chief State’s Attorney shall provide a copy of the report to the chief executive officer of the municipality in which the incident occurred and to the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection or the chief of police of such municipality, as the case may be.
In accordance with Section 51-277a and relevant Division of Criminal Justice policy, on February 16, 2016, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane referred this matter to the State’s Attorney’s Office for the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk for an investigation and the issuance of a report regarding the death of Christopher Andrews in Fairfield, Connecticut, on February 16, 2016.
The following factual findings were obtained through an investigation conducted by the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad and the Fairfield Police Department. On February 16, 2016, at 05:59 the Fairfield Police Department (FPD) received a 911 call reporting a domestic assault at 22 Mountain Laurel Road. Officer Ryan Mignone was dispatched. Dispatch advised that the caller ran out of the house and was hiding outside, that the complainant’s parents were fighting and another person was screaming. Officer Sean Fenton was also dispatched and responded from approximately one mile away. While en route dispatch relayed they received a call from within the residence and that there was an assault with a bat and that a female had a head injury. Officer Sean Fenton was the first officer to arrive at 22 Mountain Laurel Road, parking his cruiser in the driveway. Upon exiting his vehicle, Officer Fenton observed the right side garage door open. Officer Fenton was approached by a witness whom he was going to escort to his patrol car. Before he was able to do that a second witness appeared in the driveway holding a baseball bat. The witness indicated that “He’s crazy” and that Mr. Andrews was bleeding on the couch, and Mrs. Andrews had been hit by the bat by Mr. Andrews.
Officer Fenton asked the witnesses to stay by his car. As he went to enter the residence through the garage he heard a witness yell “no, no.” Officer Fenton saw a white male (later identified as Mr. Andrews) through the closed garage door window. When the male reached the open garage door Officer Fenton could see he was carrying a ten-inch knife in his right hand, which was down by his side. Mr. Andrews was bleeding from his neck and wrists. Officer Fenton radioed police headquarters that “he’s got a knife, he’s in the driveway”. Officer Fenton exited the garage to confront Mr. Andrews, who had stopped about ten feet in front of the open garage door. At this time Mr. Andrews looked in the direction of the two witnesses who were moving toward the house. Officer Fenton yelled to Mr. Andrews, “Police, drop the knife, get on the ground.” Mr. Andrews turned from the witnesses toward Officer Fenton, raised the knife, and started swinging it side to side in a threatening manner. Officer Fenton began walking backwards away from Mr. Andrews toward the front lawn of the house. Mr. Andrews ignored further commands to drop the knife and get on the ground. As Officer Fenton was walking backwards Mr. Andrews raised the knife and accelerated toward Officer Fenton. Faced with this use of deadly force, Officer Fenton responded by firing his duty weapon at Mr. Andrews. Mr. Andrews was struck by the gunfire and fell to the ground. At this time other officers from Fairfield Police arrived and provided medical assistance to Mr. Andrews and the witnesses.
Angela McGuire, M.D., Associate Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on Mr. Andrews at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington, Connecticut, on February 17, 2016. Her examination revealed the following injuries:
Perforating and penetrating gunshot wound of the left arm and torso;
Penetrating and perforating gunshot wound of the right arm;
Perforating gunshot wound of the right clavicular chest;
Perforating gunshot wound of right abdominal wall;
Four stab wounds and three incised wounds of the right side of the neck;
Two stab wounds and two incised wounds of the left side of the neck;
Incised wounds of the anterior left forearm;
Incised wounds of anterior right forearm;
Abraded red puncture sites surrounded by faint purple contusion on the left mammary chest.
These injuries are consistent with the witnesses’ accounts of Mr. Andrews’s actions on February 16, 2016, and the investigation detailed above. Dr. McGuire submitted blood specimens from Mr. Andrews for toxicological testing. The examination of the specimen did not reveal any positive findings of toxicological significance that would explain Mr. Andrews’s actions that day.
Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a, the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Andrews was assigned to the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad (WDMC) with the Fairfield Police assisting. On February 16, 2016, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane assigned this matter to the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk for investigation and determination of whether the use of physical force by the Fairfield police officer involved was appropriate under Connecticut General Statutes section 53a-22.
The Fairfield Police Department initially responded to the Andrews residence, cleared the scene and got the witnesses (the two who met Officer Fenton outside the house and the two from inside the house) and Mr. Andrews’s, medical attention. Detectives from the WDMC squad and the WDMC crime van arrived at approximately 9:15 a.m. As part of the investigation, they processed the scene for approximately four hours, taking numerous photos, taking measurements and seizing items of evidentiary value. WDMC detectives paired with FPD detectives went to St. Vincent Hospital and Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport and Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven to take photos and statements from the witnesses if possible. They took photos of Mr. Andrews and attended the autopsy on February 17, 2016. Numerous interviews were conducted with the witnesses, neighbors, Mr. Andrews’s friends and co-workers, and the Emergency Medical Technicians who responded to the scene of the incident and Officer Fenton. Search and Seizure warrants were obtained to examine computers and cell phones seized, and medical records of Mr. Andrews and witnesses.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22 sets forth the circumstances under which a peace officer may employ force in the performance of his or her duties. A peace officer is justified in using physical force to effectuate an arrest or prevent an escape, or to defend himself/herself or others from the imminent use of force. A peace officer is permitted to use deadly force in the performance of his/her duties if he/she has a reasonable belief that such force is necessary to defend himself/herself from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force, or to effect a felony arrest which involves the use or threatened use of serious physical force.
In State v. Smith , 273 Conn 173, 185, the Connecticut Supreme Court established a standard to be used in determining if an officer’s use of force was justified and reasonable. In making this determination, the Court held that one must look at both the “subjective” and “objective” reasonableness of the officer’s conduct. Using this two-step analysis, one must look first at whether or not (1) the officer subjectively expected that the force used would cause death or serious injury, and then (2) whether or not the officer’s expectation was objectively reasonable.
The Fairfield Police Department has enacted a policy and procedure manual, which includes sections on use of force and use of deadly physical force.
Chapter 11.1.1, “Use of Force,” reads in part, that:
“Police officers shall use only that force that appears reasonably necessary to effectively bring an incident under control, while protecting the lives of the officer or other as per C.G.S. 53a-22.”
Chapter 11.1.4, “Deadly Physical Force,” reads in part:
“The use of deadly force by sworn officers is permitted under the following circumstances:
To defend the officer or another person from what the officer reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force or great bodily harm, C.G.S. 53a-19.
To affect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody of a person whom he reasonably believes has committed or attempted to commit a felony which involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury and where feasible, he has given warning of his intent to use deadly physical force. C.G.S. 53a-22(c).”
Christopher Andrews tragically died on February 16, 2016, after a confrontation with Officer Sean Fenton of the Fairfield Police Department. It is the conclusion of this State’s Attorney that Officer Fenton believed the use of deadly force was necessary to defend himself and the civilians present from the imminent use of deadly physical force. It is further concluded that Officer Fenton acted in conformance with Fairfield Police Department Procedures and Policies and Connecticut law in employing deadly force to protect himself or another, and that his belief was objectively reasonable. The use of such force was both reasonable and justified under the circumstances. Therefore, I have determined that Officer Sean Fenton was justified in his use of deadly force upon Christopher Andrews, and that such force was appropriate under section 53a-22(c) of the General Statutes.
For the foregoing reasons, the Division of Criminal Justice will take no further action with respect to the use of force in this case.
Richard J. Colangelo, Jr.
Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk
November 10, 2016