Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield Concerning the Use of Deadly Physical Force in New Britain on December 14, 2017
Introduction | Circumstances of the Incident | Post-Mortem Examination | Recovered Evidence | Statements of Officers Who Fired Their Weapons | Statements of Officers Involved Who Did Not Fire Weapons | Information and Evidence Not Considered | Applicable Law and Analysis | Conclusion | Appendix
This report is issued pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a, regarding a police involved shooting on December 14, 2017, in the City of New Britain, which resulted in the death of Zoe Dowdell of Bloomfield, Ct.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a provides as follows:
“(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.”
Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 51-277a, shortly after this incident on the evening of Thursday, December 14, 2017, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane referred the matter to Peter A. McShane, the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Middlesex for an investigation and the issuance of a report regarding the death of Zoe Dowdell. The Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad (CDMCS) was assigned the task of assisting the State’s Attorney. On April 18, 2018, the responsibility for this investigation and report was reassigned to John C. Smriga, State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Fairfield as a result of the judicial appointment of Mr. McShane.
Further details of the incident as related in this report have been compiled, inter alia, from investigative reports by the CDMCS including sworn statements and police reports filed by members of the New Britain Police Department, review of “dash cam” video, forensic laboratory testing, autopsy findings of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, police dispatch recordings, examination of relevant social media posts, and personal observations made by members of the Office of the State’s Attorney, Judicial District of Fairfield.
During the evening shift hours on Thursday, December 14, 2017, the New Britain police added four unmarked vehicles and one marked vehicle to the patrol force in an attempt to locate individuals wanted in connection with a series of carjackings and robberies that had occurred recently in New Britain and nearby cities. In one incident, passengers in a vehicle were robbed at gunpoint while a female passenger was forcibly groped and subjected to degrading sexual comments about her body. In another incident, the victim was “pistol whipped.” In a third, which occurred in the evening hours of December 11, 2017, the victim was attempting to back out of her driveway when a vehicle pulled behind her and blocked her exit. She reported that three or four individuals exited the vehicle and approached her car. Two of the individuals began to strike the car with guns. The victim managed to flee her assailants, who opened fire on her vehicle as she was escaping. At least one gunshot struck her vehicle. 
Prior to the beginning of their shift on December 14 officers were briefed at roll call that the vehicle used by the individuals who were responsible for this incident was a Toyota Paseo with a New Hampshire registration plate.
Detectives Marcin Ratajczak, Michael Silverio, and Michael Slavin patrolled in an unmarked, undercover Acura RL sedan. Sergeant Jonathan Webster and Detective Kristopher Strzalka patrolled in an unmarked, undercover Toyota Camry sedan. Sergeant John Prisavage and Detective Christopher Kiely patrolled in an unmarked Ford Taurus sedan, which was equipped with emergency lights and siren. Sergeant John Blackmore, Detectives Chad Nelson, Kyle Jones, and Lawrence Smith were patrolling in an unmarked Ford Taurus sedan, which was equipped with emergency lights and siren.
At approximately 1830 hours, officers in the Acura (Ratajczak, Silverio, and Slavin) were patrolling the streets of New Britain when they observed a Toyota Paseo, color green, bearing New Hampshire registration #1810922. They noted that the vehicle appeared to be occupied by three people, and requested additional backup. While awaiting a response, they observed the Toyota appearing to “case” the neighborhood.
The Paseo then drove North on Chapman Street, approaching the traffic light on Newington Avenue, followed by the Acura, Camry and both unmarked Ford vehicles.
The Camry drove ahead in an effort to block in the suspect vehicle. Immediately in front of the Camry, a marked K9 unit (Officer Brandon Egan) and another marked patrol car (Sgt. David Mocarsky) turned onto Carlson Street. Soon after, two more marked vehicles arrived on the scene (Officer Ryan Coleman and Sgt. George Kozieradzki).
The suspect vehicle drove onto Chapman Court, at which point it encountered Officer Egan’s vehicle. Sgt. Mocarsky’s vehicle pulled up beside Officer Egan. The suspect vehicle stopped along with Detectives Ratajczak, Silverio, and Slavin’s vehicle, and Sgt. Blackmore, and Detectives Nelson, Jones, and Smith’s vehicle beside it.
Detective Ratajczak struck the suspect vehicle’s rear bumper in an apparent effort to prevent its escape. At this point, the suspect vehicle reversed in an apparent effort to turn around. As it executed this turn, it struck both unmarked vehicles and became stuck on a front lawn embankment of one of the residences on Chapman Street. Officers exited their vehicles with their weapons drawn and began to yell commands to the vehicle occupants.
The vehicle became stuck on an embankment while the operator revved the engine in an attempt to free the vehicle. While it remained stuck, a police vehicle made contact with the passenger side of the suspect vehicle, allowing the suspect vehicle to gain traction and the driver pitched forward, driving back down Chapman Court.
As the suspect vehicle began to move, Officer Jones was crossing directly in front of the vehicle. Sgt. Blackmore, Detective Smith, and Detective Kiely were also on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The suspect vehicle turned back towards the sidewalk, at which time, Detective Jones fired three rounds in quick succession at the driver. The Paseo then moved past Detective Jones and turned towards Detective Kiely who fired three times in quick succession. Other officers fired as the vehicle continued down the sidewalk and street. Eventually the suspect vehicle struck an unoccupied pick-up truck and came to a stop.
The vehicle appeared disabled but the engine continued to rev. The front seat passenger, later identified as Caleb Tisdol, was kicking at the windshield, while the backseat passenger, later identified as Noah Young, attempted to crawl out the rear window. As officers approached the vehicle, the front seat passenger placed his hands in the air. The back seat passenger was apprehended by Detectives Smith and Nelson. Other officers removed the driver who had obviously sustained serious injuries. Once all occupants were out of the vehicle, officers observed injuries to both the driver and front seat passenger. Officers notified EMS and provided on-scene aid. Audio from the recorded video reflects immediate and repeated calls by police for medics. Officers can also be heard calling for tourniquets and QuikClot. 
The driver, later identified as Zoe Dowdell, was pronounced dead at St. Francis Hospital that evening. Dowdell suffered four gunshot wounds: one to the back of his head; one to the back right side of his neck; one to his left leg; and one to his left hand. Tisdol, the front seat passenger, suffered two gunshot injuries, one to his right upper leg and one to his left lower leg.
Inside the vehicle, officers observed a loaded .45 caliber handgun on the driver’s seat floor and an unloaded .25 caliber handgun. Narcotics and ammunition were found on Tisdol. Narcotics were found on Young.
On December 15, 2017, at 10:00 a.m., Associate Medical Examiner Gregory Vincent from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) conducted an autopsy on Zoe Dowdell. The examination revealed the following gunshot wounds: (1) Penetrating gunshot wound of the head, back to front. Bullet recovered during surgery; (2) Perforating gunshot wound of the neck, back to front, exiting the oral cavity through the mouth; (3) Graze gunshot wound of the left hand; (4) Perforating gunshot wound to left thigh, left to right; (5) Penetrating gunshot wound of the right thigh. Bullet recovered during surgery.
Blood samples were taken and revealed a 2ng/mL presence of marijuana. No other drugs or alcohol were detected.
Fingerprints obtained were matched against prints on file with the Glastonbury Police Department and were confirmed to be those of Zoe Dowdell.
The cause of death was determined to be gunshot wounds to the head, neck and lower extremities. The manner of death was determined to be homicide (police shooting).
The autopsy was attended by Detective Brett Attmore and Detective James Nolting of the Connecticut State Police.
Video and Photographic Evidence
Connecticut State Police processed the scene and created a video recording of the scene and the evidence gathered. Recording began at 0851 hours and concluded at 1704 hours on December 15, 2017. The time display on the recording is off by one hour. A copy of the footage was downloaded from the camera and stored on a digital media thumb drive. Investigators took 281 color photographs of the scene, vehicles involved, and evidentiary items seized. These images were copied to a DVD and then printed.
Multiple additional secondary photography reports were prepared documenting the scene, the officers present, and the evidence seized.
Dashcam footage was successfully retrieved from New Britain Police Vehicle #41 and New Britain Police Vehicle #43. Dashcam footage from both vehicles was reviewed and is largely consistent with the officers’ accounts with the exception that the suspect vehicle was in fact struck from behind by the Acura, consistent with the account of Noah Young and several other officers. Beyond that, the video is consistent with the descriptions provided by the on-scene officers.
There is no indication from the footage that there was gunfire from inside the vehicle. Front seat passenger Tisdol appears to have his hands up as the driver of the vehicle heads towards officers and attempts to escape. Also, no police officers were struck by the subject vehicle.
The dashcam video is appended to this report as posted on the Division of Criminal Justice website site, www.ct.gov/csao .
On December 18, 2017, from approximately 1100 to 1700, the Toyota Paseo was processed in the garage of the Connecticut State Police Troop H Barracks in Hartford. Significant damage to the vehicle was noted. The vehicle was registered to a Richard Snazelle of Troy, NH.  Evidence was seized from within the vehicle. Items of relevance to this investigation are as follows: (1) 2 Marijuana cigarettes located in the ashtray; (2) a bundle of 5 bags of heroin found in the glove compartment; (3) a Taurus PT 745C .45 caliber firearm found on the driver’s side front floor (seized at scene); (4) an AWS digital scale found on the driver’s side front floor; (5) a Sterling .25 caliber firearm found underneath the driver’s seat (seized at scene); (6) an open 375mL bottle of Hennessey, half-filled, found on Passenger side front floor; (7) a Geco .45 auto live round found on passenger side floor.
A fingerprint examination was performed on both seized firearms. The report indicated that no fingerprints capable of being compared with known fingerprints were found on either weapon.
Three box cutters were also found inside the vehicle.
On Monday, December 18, 2017, the vehicle was secured in the Connecticut State Police Troop H garage in Hartford. Investigators were able to rest the front windshield back in place and recovered a number of bullet fragments and bullet like projectiles. An unexpended .45 caliber bullet was also recovered from the passenger side front floor.
Trooper First Class Lindsey Valcourt documented all bullet strikes and analyzed the likely bullet trajectory angles. Investigators observed a total of 13 suspected bullet strikes (Bullet Strikes 2-14) in the vehicle, and an additional suspected bullet strike in an unoccupied civilian vehicle parked on Chapman Court (Bullet Strike 1). The path of the bullets, as reported are as follows:
Bullet Strike 2: Entered from the front of the vehicle and struck the front bumper below the passenger side headlight.
Bullet Strike 3: Entered through the lower passenger side molding at a slightly upward and forward angle.
Bullet Strike 4: Entered at a slightly upward angle through the passenger side door, penetrating the passenger front sitting compartment.
Bullet Strike 5: Entered the upper portion of the passenger side door at a slightly downward angle, penetrating the passenger front sitting compartment.
Bullet Strike 6: Located on the passenger side in the roof, consistent with the shot originating behind the vehicle.
Bullet Strike 7: Located on the rear roof edge. Location of origin could not be determined.
Bullet Strike 8: Located on the rear roof edge. Location of origin could not be determined.
Bullet Strike 9: Located in the upper molding of the driver’s side door, consistent with a shot fired from an area behind the vehicle.
Bullet Strike 10: Located in the lower portion of the windshield on the driver’s side. Entered through driver’s side windshield at a downward angle.
Bullet Strike 11: Located at passenger side windshield. Consistent with coming from the rear of the vehicle.
Bullet Strike 12: Located at passenger side of the windshield. Consistent with coming from the rear of the vehicle.
Bullet Strike 13: Located in the upper area of the passenger side of the windshield. Consistent with coming from the rear of the vehicle.
Bullet Strike 14: Located in the driver facing side of the steering wheel. Location of origin could not be determined.
All weapons used by New Britain police during the December 14, 2017, incident were subjected to ballistics comparison with expended shell casings found at the scene. This testing revealed that three expended shell casings were fired from Officer Kyle Jones’ weapon; two expended shell casings were fired from Detective Chad Nelson’s weapon; three were fired from Detective Christopher Kiely’s weapon; nine were fired from Detective Michael Slavin’s weapon; and 11 were fired from Detective Marcin Ratajczak’s weapon. No comparisons were confirmed for either firearm found inside the vehicle.
Bullet projectiles recovered from Zoe Dowdell’s head and leg, and from inside the vehicle were examined but, as a result of the severely damaged condition of the projectiles, the weapon from which they were fired cannot be determined.
Test fires from the firearms recovered from inside the vehicle were checked against the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) database. This test yielded positive results. Preliminary associations were developed between these weapons and DSS-17-8096 (Robbery. Windsor PD) and DSS-18-17 (Attempted Robbery. Shots fired. New Britain PD). The New Britain file number coincides with the report filed by the victim of the attempted carjacking on Fairview Avenue.
On Friday, December 15, 2017, investigators were alerted by the Vernon Police Department about social media posts relevant to the December 14, 2017 incident. A student at Rockville High School notified the Department School Resource Officer, Josh Wells, about a video posted on the account of “coolersduce” showing three black males inside a vehicle. The student reported that the individual in the video was Zoe Dowdell. Upon review of the video Trooper Meier observed an individual resembling Zoe Dowdell in the driver’s seat, an individual resembling Caleb Tisdol in the front passenger seat, and an individual resembling Noah Young in the backseat. Tisdol points a black handgun at the camera and continues to brandish it, while Young points a silver handgun at the camera. The two weapons displayed are consistent with the appearance of those recovered after the incident, and the clothing worn by the three individuals is consistent with clothing seized from the scene.
Another social media comment from “gangstalicious” @coolersduce posted in January of 2017 reads, “I hope you gotta gun cause I keep mine with me.” The account gangstaliciousbby appears to also belong to Dowdell.
Statement of NBPD OFFICER KYLE JONES
On January 3, 2018, Officer Kyle Jones gave a sworn statement to the Connecticut State Police. Officer Jones reports that he was aware of the carjackings involving a Toyota Paseo, and was aware that these incidents involved two separate firearms.
Officer Jones reports that he was made aware on Thursday, December 14, 2017, that detectives had located the suspect vehicle and were following it. Officer Jones, along with Sgt. Blackmore, Detective Smith, and Detective Nelson entered their vehicle and proceeded to assist in their unmarked police vehicle.
The officers elected to “box” the suspect vehicle in, and multiple cars positioned themselves to carry this out. Officer Jones reports that the suspect vehicle reversed at a high rate of speed and crashed into both a vice unmarked vehicle and his own. From Officer Jones’s vantage, this appeared to be an attempt to evade arrest.
Officer Jones acknowledges that there were a number of parked vehicles on the street that limited the area in which to maneuver a motor vehicle. Officer Jones witnessed the suspect vehicle become stuck on an embankment in front of one of the residences on Chapman Street. Officer Jones recalls hearing the suspect vehicle accelerating and that he exited his vehicle but cannot recall who else did. Officer Jones reports that when he exited his vehicle, he was in the path of the suspect vehicle. The suspect vehicle freed itself from the embankment, at which time he fired “multiple rounds” through the front windshield at the operator in an attempt to stop the vehicle. Officer Jones was able to get out of the path of the vehicle.
Officer Jones reports hearing multiple shots being fired as the suspect vehicle was speeding away. However, Officer Jones could not say with certainty who was firing, or where the shots were coming from. He observed the suspect vehicle crash into a parked vehicle, and approached with his weapon drawn. He observed the operator of the vehicle bleeding heavily, and noted a black semi-automatic firearm on the driver’s side floorboard area. Officer Jones then assisted in providing medical assistance until EMS arrived.
Subsequent investigation supports that conclusion that Officer Jones fired three shots from his duty weapon during the course of the incident.
Statement of NBPD DETECTIVE CHRISTOPHER KIELY
Detective Kiely provided a statement on February 2, 2018. Detective Kiely was given the opportunity to consult with counsel and agreed to meet without counsel present.
Detective Kiely reported that in November/December of 2017 there had been an influx of robberies throughout the city of New Britain. Many of these incidents were “carjackings” in which firearms were displayed by one or two males. On the Monday prior to the 14 th of December, two incidents occurred in the vicinity of Fairview Street. Detective Kiely and others arrived to process the scene. The first incident involved a street robbery where the victim reported being “pistol whipped” by unknown persons. The second incident, which Kiely directly investigated, involved a carjacking in which the victim and her boyfriend were attempting to leave their driveway and were stopped by two men in a blue or green vehicle. The victim was told to give her assailants the car. She refused and drove away, at which point her assailants fired numerous rounds at her vehicle. One round struck the vehicle. After processing the crime scene, police recovered two types of shell casings. .45 caliber and .22 caliber.
On the Tuesday prior to the 14 th of December, New Britain patrol had located a vehicle that matched the description of the earlier carjacking suspect. The vehicle was a Toyota Paseo with New Hampshire registration. It was believed to be an unreported stolen vehicle. Detective Kiely, through investigative efforts, concluded that he was dealing with a stolen vehicle and between 2 to 3 persons armed with at least two firearms, and that the suspects had used those firearms.
While investigative efforts were taking place to locate these suspects and their vehicle, Detective Kiely heard a radio broadcast from the Special Services Unit (SSU) that the vehicle had been observed on the East side of New Britain and appeared to be operating in a manner consistent with a search for victims based on its movements. Detective Kiely and Sgt. Prisavage used an unmarked Ford police cruiser and drove to the East side of New Britain where they observed the Toyota, already being followed by an unmarked Acura from SSU and an unmarked Ford from the Street Crimes Unit.
Sgt. Webster made the decision to have the vehicle stopped in the Chapman Court area. As they continued to travel north, Detective Kiely saw a marked New Britain Police cruiser ahead of them travel east on Chapman Court. It appeared to him that the suspects were now aware of the police presence and began to accelerate. A second marked police cruiser, with lights activated, intercepted the suspect vehicle.
The suspect vehicle stopped. The SSU Acura was parked directly behind the suspect vehicle. The Street Crimes Unit’s Ford was immediately behind the SSU, and Detective Kiely was behind them, to the right. The streets were completely blocked on both ends by police vehicles.
The suspect vehicle reversed and struck the front end of the SSU Acura.  Detective Kiely reports that the suspect vehicle then began to travel forward. Detective Kiely believed that individuals inside the SSU vehicle might have been injured in the collision.
Detective Kiely reported that based on his prior knowledge of the suspects, and the fact they were now using the vehicle as a deadly weapon, he believed the suspects to be a danger to both the officers present, and the community at large and needed to be stopped.
The suspect vehicle was then struck by another police vehicle, which caused it to spin around. The suspect vehicle became stuck on something near a residential driveway.
Detective Kiely reports that he exited his vehicle and took position on the sidewalk near a telephone pole, facing the driver’s side window, using the telephone pole as cover. Detective Kiely reports that he had reason to believe that the occupants of the vehicle were armed, and therefore had his duty weapon out. Detective Kiely reports that he believed the occupants were going to exit the vehicle and attempt to flee on foot. He recalls that the operator of the vehicle was revving the engine in an effort to free the vehicle while officers approached the vehicle yelling “stop” or “get out of the car.” The suspect vehicle eventually gained traction and accelerated towards the officers who were approaching the vehicle. Detective Kiely recalls hearing gunfire, but was not sure if the shots came from officers or from inside the vehicle. He was sure, however, that the vehicle was being used as a weapon and watched several officers moving out of its path.
Detective Kiely reports that the suspect vehicle struck an unmarked vehicle and turned in his direction, directly at him. Detective Kiely reports that he believed the vehicle was going to strike him if he did not either move, or stop the operator by shooting him. Officer Kiely reports that he backed up to avoid being hit at which time he heard gunfire. Detective Kiely backed up again and fired one shot aimed at the driver’s head. Detective Kiely saw the driver duck. Detective Kiely aimed once more and reports firing one more time, however he did not fire again, feeling that he could not do so without endangering anyone in the nearby residences.
He believed that everyone who fired must have missed and prepared to get back in his vehicle to chase the fleeing suspects.
Detective Kiely reports that he observed the suspect vehicle crash into a nearby pickup truck on Chapman Street. He and other officers rushed to the crash site. Detective Kiely reports that he had been focused on the driver and only then became aware of the two passengers. He and other officers began to render on-scene medical aid. Detective Kiely reports that at some time he overheard someone say they had located a firearm and that it appeared to be a .45 caliber handgun.
Detective Kiely reports that he observed the suspect vehicle strike multiple police vehicles and attempt to run over numerous officers. He believed that the driver would have killed any officers in his path. He cannot say for certain whether any gunfire came from inside the vehicle or not, but he did feel his life was in danger as well as the lives of other officers.
Subsequent investigation supports the conclusion that Detective Kiely fired three shots from his duty weapon during the course of the incident.
Statement of NBPD DETECTIVE MICHAEL SLAVIN
Detective Slavin reports that on December 14, 2017, he had been working with the Special Services Unit. He was aware of a series of violent carjackings in New Britain, at least one of which involved shots fired by the suspects. In investigating these incidents, the NBPD had developed a profile of a green Toyota Paseo with New Hampshire plates. This vehicle was located, unoccupied, on Clark Street. Photos of the vehicle were shown to the victims of the most recent carjackings, who confirmed that this was the vehicle involved in those crimes. Officers were instructed to be on the lookout for this vehicle and to take its occupants into custody. Because of the violent nature of these incidents, this was considered a high priority, and officers were pulled from other assignments to assist in apprehending the carjacking suspects.
That evening, he and his unit mates were working on an unrelated narcotics investigation. As they drove to their location, they observed the suspect vehicle and confirmed by its plate number that this was the carjacking vehicle. They also observed three individuals in the vehicle.
They radioed in their finding and were instructed by Sgt. Webster to follow the vehicle, wait for it to stop, and attempt to detain the vehicle and its occupants for further investigation.
While they followed the vehicle, they observed it appearing to “case” several neighborhoods for potential victims. At some point, Detective Slavin reports that Sgt. Webster instructed them to prepare to “block in” the suspect vehicle. All officers presumed that the occupants of the vehicle were armed and dangerous based on the prior carjackings.
The suspect vehicle continued until it encountered a marked police vehicle. Detective Slavin reports seeing the suspect vehicle attempting to drive to the left of the parked police vehicle, as an unmarked unit pulled up further blocking the way. Detective Slavin reports that the vehicle then reversed and slammed into the front end of his own vehicle, and that it attempted to ram another police cruiser blocking the road. Detective Slavin reports that the suspect vehicle and another police vehicle engaged in a head on collision, at which time Detective Slavin and several others exited their vehicles and began to yell instructions at the operator of the vehicle. Detective Slavin reports that the driver disobeyed their commands and continued to slam into other vehicles, presenting a clear risk to all present. Detective Slavin reports hearing gunfire and observing the suspect vehicle driving at an officer.
Detective Slavin reports that he believed there was gunfire coming from inside the vehicle  and that the occupants inside the vehicle were dangerous fleeing felons. He therefore opened fire with his own service weapon.
Detective Slavin observed the suspect vehicle crash into an unoccupied civilian vehicle. He continued to hear gunshots, and believed that some were coming from inside the vehicle. As such, he continued to fire. Detective Slavin also reports that his secondary objective in continuing to fire was to stop the threat of a dangerous fleeing felon to the community.
When Detective Slavin saw one passenger put his hands outside the window, he stopped firing and prepared to take the occupants into custody. Detective Slavin reports assisting with medical aid, at which time he observed numerous live ammunition rounds and heroin packets on the front seat passenger’s person. Detective Slavin also observed a firearm on the driver’s seat floor.
Subsequent investigation supports the conclusion that Detective Slavin fired nine shots from his duty weapon during the course of the incident.
Statement of NBPD DETECTIVE MARCIN RATAJCZAK
On December 16, 2017, Officer Marcin Ratajczak gave a sworn statement to the Connecticut State Police. He reports that on December 14, 2017, he and Detectives Silverio and Slavin were traveling in an unmarked gray Acura police vehicle. While driving they observed the suspect vehicle and recognized it as one connected to two recent violent carjackings, one of which involved shots fired. The officers followed the vehicle to get its plate number, and confirmed that this was in fact the vehicle they were looking for. They observed three individuals inside the vehicle. Detective Slavin notified dispatch via radio that they had located the vehicle. Sgt. Webster instructed them to follow the vehicle and reported that he and Detective Strzalka were following in another unmarked vehicle. Several additional marked and unmarked vehicles were dispatched to the area. Officer Ratajczak believed that the vehicle was “casing” other vehicles.
Officer Ratajczak followed the suspect vehicle until it came to a stop short of the intersection of Carlson Street where a marked NBPD cruiser operated by Officer Egan was blocking the road.
Officer Ratajczak reports that he stopped behind the Paseo, offset to the left. He reports that as he was shifting the vehicle into park, the Paseo backed up “violently” making contact with his front passenger bumper area.  Officer Ratajczak reports that the suspect vehicle then lunged forward and turned to the right, striking at least one or two parked cars in an effort to leave the area.
Officer Ratajczak reports that he exited the driver side of his vehicle and went around to his passenger side where he observed numerous officers converging on the Paseo. Officer Ratajczak drew his service weapon and yelled, “Let me see your hands.” He heard the driver continuing the rev the engine, attempting to move the car from where it had been stuck. The vehicle then made a sharp left hand turn onto the sidewalk where several officers were standing. Officer Ratajczak reports that as the Paseo gained traction and accelerated, he saw numerous officers scrambling out of the way.
Officer Ratajczak then heard several shots fired. Officer Ratajczak also discharged “several” shots aimed at the driver of the Paseo. He did so “with the safety of all officers present on scene and the safety of the public in mind” to prevent the driver “from causing serious physical injury or death to those present and to protect innocent lives.” The suspect vehicle crashed into a nearby parked car. Officer Ratajczak assisted the front seat passenger who identified himself as “Caleb” out of the vehicle and provided on-scene medical treatment to an apparent gunshot wound to the leg. While doing so, he observed Detective Slavin removing live ammunition rounds from Caleb’s pants pocket.
Officer Ratajczak also reports assisting with medical treatment for the driver of the vehicle, at which time he recalls seeing a black firearm on the driver’s side floorboard.
Subsequent investigation supports the conclusion that Officer Ratajczak fired 11 shots from his duty weapon during the course of the incident.
Statement of NBPD DETECTIVE CHAD NELSON
On January 12, 2018, Detective Chad Nelson gave a sworn statement to the Connecticut State Police. Detective Nelson reported that he was a Street Crimes Detective whose primary responsibilities involved dealing with street level crimes. As part of his routine duties, Detective Nelson spends the first hour of his shift reviewing newly issued warrants and reports of area criminal activity. Detective Nelson was in the practice of printing photographs of persons and/or vehicles for which the police were looking, and would bring these photographs with him for reference.
Detective Nelson believed that in the weeks leading up to December 14, 2017, there had been numerous carjacking robberies in New Britain and the Greater Hartford area. These carjackings all involved two or three black males. One or two of these suspects displayed firearms at the victims and in some instances “pistol whipped” the victim.
Two such carjackings occurred on December 11, 2017 in New Britain. In one instance, a male victim was pistol whipped in the back of the head. During the second attempted carjacking, minutes later, the same suspects blocked in the victim’s car and approached the vehicle holding firearms. The victim reversed her car, colliding into the suspect’s vehicle and drove away. While she drove away, the suspects fired several shots at her vehicle. Spent casings at the scene were determined to be a .22 and a .45 caliber. Later that day, the suspect vehicle was found, unoccupied on Clark Street. The vehicle was an older model teal Toyota Paseo with NH registration 1810922.
Digital images of this vehicle were obtained and forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Division. On December 13, 2017, a BOLO (i.e., be on the look-out) was put out to all police personnel for the suspect vehicle. Due to the violent nature of the reported criminal activity, members of the New Britain Criminal Investigations Division, Special Services Unit, and Street Crimes Units were actively searching for the vehicle.
Detective Nelson reports that on December 14, 2017, at approximately 1800, he, Sgt. Blackmore, Detective Smith, and Detective Jones, were parked in front of the New Britain Police Department headquarters in an unmarked police vehicle equipped with lights and siren. While sitting in front of the Police Department, Detective Nelson heard a member of the New Britain Special Services Vice Unit, Detective Silveiro, transmit that he was travelling on Chestnut Street behind the suspect vehicle. Detective Silveiro advised that he and other Vice members, Sgt. Webster, Detective Ratajczak, Detective Strzalka, and Detective Slavin, were following the suspect vehicle. Detective Nelson proceeded to drive to their location. Because the suspects were considered armed and dangerous, numerous other patrol personnel and supervisors also advised dispatch that they were headed to the area.
Initially it was believed that the suspect vehicle was “casing” for potential victims, and officers in marked vehicles were instructed to stay out of sight. However, at some point, Detective Nelson reported that it appeared the suspects were aware they were being followed. At this time, Sgt. Webster began relaying plans on how to apprehend the vehicle. The police vehicles took side streets to attempt to “box” the suspect vehicle in.
Detective Nelson reports seeing the suspect vehicle stop briefly, and then reverse in a “fast rate of speed.” Detective Nelson reports that the operator of the suspect vehicle revved the engine, accelerating backwards, and collided into the front end of the Vice unit’s unmarked vehicle. At this time, Detective Nelson reports that he pulled his own car to the passenger side of the Vice vehicle in order to block the road. Detective Nelson observed the suspect vehicle maneuvering to the right, at which point Detective Nelson’s vehicle struck the passenger side of the suspect vehicle. Detective Nelson reports that he did intend to close off the street, but did not intend to hit the suspect vehicle.
At this point, Detective Nelson reports that he and several other officers exited their vehicles. He recalls that he heard their engine revving, and multiple officers instructing the suspects to stop their vehicle and exit the car.
Detective Nelson reports that he observed the suspect vehicle gaining momentum alongside the passenger side of his vehicle. He recalled at least one officer standing next to the vehicle on the passenger side directly in the suspect’s line of travel. Detective Nelson reports hearing numerous gunshots and observing the suspect vehicle continuing to drive erratically. Detective Nelson reports pointing his weapon at the suspect vehicle and seeing what he believed was the body of Detective Jones or Detective Smith being dragged under the vehicle. Detective Nelson also reports seeing what he believed to be muzzle flash coming from inside the vehicle. Detective Nelson observed the rear windshield shatter at the same time he heard an abundance of gunshots. Detective Nelson believed he felt a “sensation” that bullets were flying past his head and body.  At this time, Detective Nelson states that he believed his life and the lives of his fellow officers were in danger and fired 2 to 3 shots at the suspect vehicle in an attempt to stop the threat of being shot as well as to stop a dangerous fleeing felon.
Subsequent investigation supports the conclusion that Detective Nelson fired two shots from his duty weapon during the course of the incident.
Numerous police reports were completed in connection to this incident. They included reports by individuals who did not witness the incident, including traffic and scene security, evidence processing, and other tangential functions. Their assessments are not specifically included in this report. Summaries of reports written by those who were present for the shooting follow:
Detective Michael Silverio
Detective Silverio reports that on December 14, 2017, he and other members of the Special Service Unit (Detectives Ratajczak and Slavin) were travelling in an unmarked police vehicle on an unrelated narcotics investigation. Detective Silverio was aware of a string of violent carjackings linked to a green Toyota with New Hampshire plates. Detective Silverio reports observing a green Toyota traveling on Columbus Avenue. The vehicle had New Hampshire plates and three occupants. Detective Silverio confirmed the plate number as belonging to the suspect vehicle and notified other officers via radio.
Detective Silverio and his vehicle continued to observe the green Toyota as it appeared to “case” neighborhoods for potential victims. Detective Silverio reports that officers began to work out a plan to stop the suspect vehicle. Detective Slavin reports that the suspect vehicle turned onto Carlson Street, where it encountered a marked police cruiser. Detective Silverio reports that the suspect vehicle went into a reverse motion and that their driver, Detective Ratajczak moved forward to stop further backwards movement by striking the rear bumper of the Toyota.
Detective Silverio reports that the vehicle began to accelerate in a reckless manner, almost striking officers who had exited their vehicles. Detective Silverio reports several officers discharged weapons believing they were going to be seriously injured. Detective Silverio reports that the vehicle continued to drive erratically until it struck a parked civilian vehicle and stopped.
He and Detective Ratajczak approached the suspect vehicle with their weapons drawn and removed the occupants from the vehicle in order to place the individuals under arrest. Detective Silverio reports that he and Detective Slavin assisted in providing medical aid to the occupants. While doing so, Detective Silverio located packaged heroin and live ammunition on the front seat passenger, later identified as Caleb Tisdol.
Sgt. John Blackmore
Sgt. Blackmore reports being aware of the armed robberies involving a Toyota Paseo. He reports that he and Detectives Smith, Nelson, and Jones were all in an unmarked police car. They heard that members of SSU had a visual on the Toyota. They then headed towards the SSU members to assist. Sgt. Blackmore reports that the Toyota was being followed by two unmarked vehicles. They began to make preparations to apprehend the suspect vehicle. He reports that the Toyota was put in reverse and accelerated backwards, striking their vehicle and possibly the vehicle next to them. A marked police vehicle then came from Carlson Street and made contact with the Toyota, which was now on the front lawn of a residence. Sgt. Blackmore reports hearing the operator revving the engine, but the suspect vehicle appeared stuck. Sgt. Blackmore reports exiting his vehicle and yelling commands for the occupants to exit the vehicle. They did not comply. Because he believed that the vehicle had been used in numerous carjackings involving firearms, Sgt. Blackmore drew his own weapon before approaching the suspect vehicle. He saw the suspect vehicle accelerate forwards. From his vantage, he reports that Detective Jones and numerous other officers were in danger. He then heard multiple gunshots and observed the suspect vehicle crash into a parked pickup truck. Sgt. Blackmore reports that he and other officers approached the vehicle and began to render medical attention until EMS arrived.
Detective Lawrence Smith
Detective Smith reports that on December 14, 2017, he was working with the Street Crimes Unit, but was aware of a suspect vehicle connected to numerous violent carjackings. He and others in his unit (Sgt. Blackmore, Detective Jones, and Detective Nelson) were wearing marked police tactical vests. They were in an unmarked police vehicle with Detective Nelson driving. At some point, they became aware that the vice unit was following the suspect vehicle and proceeded to the area of the vehicle.
Detective Smith observed the suspect vehicle driving slowly though an area which, in his training and experience, appeared to be an attempt to “case” for potential victims. The vehicle made several turns around the small neighborhood and appeared to be circling, before resuming its travel.
The suspect vehicle continued up Chapman Street, where its path was blocked by a marked NBPD patrol vehicle. A vice unit also blocked forward travel. Detective Smith reports their vehicle pulled up alongside another vice unit to block the suspect’s rear escape. Detective Smith reports that an attempt was made to block the vehicle in, but the suspect vehicle suddenly went into reverse, striking the front of their vehicle. The suspect vehicle continued to travel in reverse until it came up onto the hillside of a residence on Chapman Court.
Detective Smith reports that he then exited his vehicle and could hear the suspect’s vehicle “screaming” as if the operator had fully accelerated. Detective Smith reports exiting the left rear passenger side of his vehicle and positioning himself around the trunk area of his vehicle. The suspect vehicle was still backed against the hillside and Detective Smith reports that he could hear the engine “revving.”
Detective Smith reports that he drew his duty weapon and approached the driver’s side, pointed his weapon at the operator and, along with several other officers, began yelling for the suspects to exit the vehicle. Detective Smith reports seeing the operator looking at the officers as he attempted to free the vehicle. The suspect vehicle then launched forward, with several officers in close proximity. Detective Smith reports moving out of the way of the vehicle’s path as it drove towards other officers. Detective Smith reports then hearing gunfire coming from next to him, and glass from the suspect vehicle shattering into the air.
The suspect vehicle then continued down the sidewalk, colliding with another detective vehicle stopped behind Detective Smith’s vehicle. As the suspect vehicle continued to drive on the sidewalk down Chapman Street, Detective Smith reports hearing more gunfire but cannot say whether it came from inside the vehicle or from other officers. The suspect vehicle eventually collided with a parked vehicle and came to a stop.
Detective Smith reports seeing the backseat passenger exiting the vehicle through the now missing rear windshield, taking control of the passenger and placing him in handcuffs once he was safely out of the vehicle. Detective Smith then moved towards Chapman Street to keep the roadway clear for EMS.
Sgt. John Prisavage
Sgt. Prisavage reported being aware of the suspect vehicle and its alleged involvement in recent carjackings. He reports that he was traveling in an unmarked Ford Taurus with Detective Kiely. He reports the suspect vehicle striking several police vehicles, both marked and unmarked. Sgt. Prisavage recalls the suspect vehicle moving towards officers who had exited their vehicles, and shots being fired. He reports the suspect vehicle coming towards him, but could not tell if shots were being fired from the vehicle or by his fellow officers. He believed that the operator of the suspect vehicle had endangered the lives of multiple officers on the scene. Concerned about potential crossfire, and not having a safe avenue to fire, Sgt. Prisavage took cover and eventually returned to his vehicle, which was then struck head on by the suspect vehicle. He reports the vehicle attempting to flee, and crashing into a parked vehicle on Chapman Street. He reports Detective Kiely reporting to him that he had fired his weapon. He further reports radioing headquarters and requesting a medic as the three suspects had sustained injuries.
Detective Christopher Strzalka
Detective Strzalka reports that on December 14, 2017, he and several other officers of the New Britain Police Department were traveling on Dwight Street in order to conduct an unrelated drug investigation. All were wearing plainclothes and in unmarked vehicles. They received word that other officers, Slavin, Silveiro, and Ratajczak were following a green Toyota with New Hampshire registration, believed to be the suspect vehicle in a string of violent carjackings. In at least one such attempted carjacking involved multiple shots fired at the victim. The vehicle appeared to contain three occupants.
Detective Strzalka and Sgt. Webster, travelling in the same unmarked vehicle, made their way towards the location of the suspect vehicle. Another officer (Silveiro) observed the Toyota engaged in activity that in his training and experience suggested “casing” for potential victims. This was broadcast to the other officers and Detective Silveiro requested backup to respond and assist due to the known violent nature of the suspects. Sgt. Webster also called in members of the New Britain Police Department to assist in surveilling the Toyota.
The Toyota continued towards Chapman Street while officers positioned themselves to block the vehicle’s escape. Patrol units blocked avenues of forward escape, while unmarked vehicles blocked reverse efforts to escape.
Officer Strzalka exited his vehicle with his badge and firearm displayed. He observed other officers doing the same while giving loud orders to the operator. Detective Strzalka reports observing the vehicle move forward, and then reverse in an attempt to escape. Detective Strzalka observed the Toyota maneuver “dangerously close” to officers approaching the vehicle, at which time he heard several gunshots. Detective Strzalka observed the Toyota maneuver back onto Chapman Street, at which time he heard several more gunshots. Detective Strzalka observed Detective Ratajczak discharging his department issued firearm at the suspect Toyota. After the gunshots, the vehicle collided with an unoccupied civilian vehicle on Chapman Street.
Detective Strzalka approached the suspect vehicle with his weapon drawn and heard Sgt. Blackmore report that he believed someone had exited the vehicle and ran through an adjacent yard. Detective Strzalka and Officer Egan then looked for the alleged fleeing suspect but found no one. When he returned, he observed Officer Mena rendering first aid to the vehicle operator who was lying in the roadway outside the driver’s side of the Toyota. Detective Strzalka attempted to assist.
Sgt. Jonathan Webster
Sgt. Webster reports being aware of numerous previous robberies involving the suspect vehicle, and how the vehicle came to be identified. His report indicates that he was notified by Detective Silverio that members of SSU were following the suspect vehicle. Detective Silverio reported that there were three occupants in the vehicle and it appeared to be “casing” the area. Sgt. Webster reports that he believes that at some point the occupants of the vehicle became aware they were being followed. Sgt. Webster had a number of police vehicles funnel into the areas of Carlson Street and the Chamberlain School to limit the possibility of escape. Shortly after, he drove onto Carlson Street and the suspect vehicle stopped. At that point, Detective Ratajczak pulled up in an unmarked police vehicle and drove into the rear of the suspect vehicle to limit the possibility of escape. All officers exited their vehicles. Sgt. Webster reports that the officers were of the belief that the suspects were armed and had already demonstrated a willingness to use those weapons. The operator of the vehicle then went in reverse, almost running over several officers. Sgt. Webster reports that he feared officers to the rear of the suspect vehicle were going to be run over. He witnessed several officers, believing they were about to be run over by the suspect vehicle, firing their weapons in an attempt to stop the threat of deadly force being used against them. The suspect vehicle crashed into several police vehicles and accelerated in the direction of several officers before it sped from Chapman Court onto Chapman Street where it crashed into a parked vehicle.
Sgt. Webster further reports that following the crash, several officers rushed to the vehicle at which time they realized two of the occupants had been struck by gunfire. Officers began to render medical aid while medics were requested. Sgt. Webster was able to look inside the vehicle and observed a black handgun on the floor of the front driver’s side. He further observed Detective Slavin removing ammunition and heroin packets from the front seat passenger’s pockets.
Officer Brandon Egan
Officer Egan reports that he was notified by radio that officers were following the suspect vehicle. Officer Egan pulled onto Dwight Court, removed his department issued AR-15 assault weapon from the trunk of his vehicle and placed in on his front passenger seat. Officer Egan proceeded to Newington Avenue, west of Carlson Street, where he could see the suspect vehicle approaching his vehicle, then stopping. Officer Egan reports that he exited his cruiser with his rifle and began to approach the stopped vehicle. He observed the vehicle move in reverse, back over a curb, and become stuck on an embankment in front of a residence. The suspect vehicle attempted to flee and struck numerous unmarked vehicles.
Officer Egan recalls seeing the suspect vehicle move off the embankment and heard the sound of gunshots. Officer Egan could not tell if the gunshots were coming from officers or inside the suspect vehicle. Officer Egan reports that he observed the suspect vehicle crash and heard more gunshots. He was informed that an occupant of the vehicle had fled. Officer Egan attempted to locate this individual, but all three occupants had, in fact, remained at the vehicle. Officer Egan did not fire his weapon.
Officer David Mocarsky
Officer David Mocarsky reports that on December 14, 2017, he was operating a fully marked police cruiser, Vehicle #41. This cruiser is equipped with both cameras and microphones. Officer Mocarsky became aware of the pursuit of the Toyota Paseo. He utilized his police lights, which activates the recording equipment.
As Officer Mocarsky travelled to the scene, he passed an unmarked undercover vehicle, passed it, and pulled to the right of Officer Egan’s marked police cruiser. He observed the suspect vehicle driving towards him with its headlights on, and then observed the vehicle stopping. Officer Mocarsky reports that he observed an unmarked police vehicle make contact with the rear bumper of the suspect vehicle in an effort to prevent backwards movement and further box in the suspect vehicle. He then reports seeing the suspect vehicle violently accelerating backwards, pushing the first vehicle out of the way and striking another. The suspect vehicle then backed up and stopped.
Officer Mocarsky reports that he then pulled his cruiser forward and made contact with the suspect vehicle in order to further prevent movement. Officer Mocarsky reports hearing the suspect vehicle accelerating and pulled his cruisier forward, again with the intent of preventing movement. At this time, Officer Mocarsky observed the suspect vehicle accelerating towards the detectives. From his vantage, he reports believing that the detectives were going to be struck by the vehicle. He observed the suspect vehicle drive on the sidewalk, turn towards Detective Kiely, and then accelerate out of sight.
Officer Mocarsky remained in his vehicle until after the suspect vehicle was crashed. At that point, he ran to the vehicle and began to assist with on-scene medical attention. After observing the extent of Dowdell’s injuries, he ordered his handcuffs removed so that the officers could render better medical aid.
Officer Ryan Coleman
Officer Coleman reports that on December 14, 2017, he was aware that multiple violent carjackings had occurred within the City of New Britain. At least one of these incidents involved the suspects opening fire on the victim’s vehicle. Officer Coleman was on patrol in Vehicle #43, which is equipped with in-car video and audio equipment. During his patrol, he became aware that the suspect vehicle involved in the carjackings was being followed by law enforcement and he responded to the area to provide assistance. He heard Sgt. Webster communicating via radio that the plan was to stop the suspect vehicle on Chapman Street. Officer Coleman reports driving north on Chapman Street behind an unmarked detective vehicle. When he arrived, he observed the suspect vehicle on an embankment, and several officers surrounding the vehicle. Officer Coleman reports seeing the vehicle suddenly move forward in the direction of the officers. Officer Coleman reports hearing a number of loud bangs that he recognized as gunfire.
Officer Coleman observed officers running out of the way of the vehicle as it drove down the sidewalk. Officer Coleman reports that he believed the lives of the officers were in danger, and he began to turn his cruiser around to pursue the suspect vehicle. Officer Coleman reports that the suspect vehicle then struck a parked car and stopped.
Officer Coleman reports that he and Detective Kiely approached the vehicle and removed occupants from the vehicle and placed them in handcuffs. Officer Coleman reports conducting a pat down and finding several rounds of ammunition and packaged narcotics in the pocket of the front seat passenger. Officer Coleman reported this to Detective Slavin and then went to move his cruiser out of the road so that EMS would be able to reach the scene.
Officer Nicholas Dresko
Officer Dresko responded to the scene after the report of shots fired was received by dispatch. When he arrived, he observed officers providing medical aid to a black male lying on the ground next to the driver’s side door. The man was suffering from an apparent gunshot wound and was conscious and talking but bleeding heavily from his mouth. Officer Dresko also observed other officers providing medical aid to a second individual on the passenger side of the vehicle.
Officer Dresko approached the vehicle to look for any additional victims and observed what appeared to him to be a black handgun on the floor of the driver’s seat. At this time, he was directed to remain by the vehicle to make sure no one touched the weapon or entered the vehicle.
Officer Franz Mena
Officer Mena reports that he arrived at the scene after the report of shots fired was received by dispatch. When he arrived, he observed a black male on the ground and bleeding. Officers were rendering medical care. Officer Mena left his vehicle and assisted in providing medical care. Officer Mena rode with the individual, later identified as Zoe Dowdell and continued to assist paramedics en route to the hospital. Officer Mena remained at the hospital until Dowdell was pronounced dead.
On December 15, 2017, a neighborhood canvass was conducted. Multiple residents reported hearing shots fired, but none witnessed anything, and did not look outside until after police had responded.
Noah Young was arrested by the New Britain Police Department as part of this investigation. Young was placed in a secure interview room, equipped with audio and video recording. TFC Patrick Dwyer and Detective McGlynn conducted an interview of Mr. Young.
During that interview, Young was informed that he had an active warrant out of Bloomfield. Young’s clothing was seized pursuant to this investigation. Young claimed that he had been asleep in the backseat of the car during the incident that is the subject of this report. Young reported that he recalled an argument about going to the gas station and going to Hartford.
Young reported that the driver of the vehicle wanted to see his girlfriend, but they were trying to get back to Hartford. Young stated that they were not from New Britain.
Young stated that he believed his arm had been shot.
Young further expressed a desire to know how the police could go into the “Do Not Enter” road. Young reported that he saw 4 to 5 police cars, and claimed that one car “blasted a U-turn” and struck their car while a second police car hit them from behind. Young stated that he knew the driver had been shot. Young reported that after he was shot, the driver hit the gas and they smashed into the pickup truck.
Young was questioned about the drugs found on him and acknowledged that he had three bundles on him because his dealer did not have any Percocet. Young stated that he resided in Bloomfield with his mother and was unemployed. He identified the driver as “Zo” and stated that he knows “Zo” through his brother.
Young reported that Zo picked him up on Albany Avenue in Hartford and that he was by himself. He later changed his narrative and stated that Caleb was with him when Zo picked him up. Young said that Zo wanted to see his girlfriend in Bristol, but that he took a wrong exit and ended up in New Britain. Young also reports that he was asked to drive, but would not because he did not know if the car was stolen. Young stated that he did not know there were guns in the car and that he had never been in the car before. Young stated that he asked if the car was stolen and was told it was not. Young stated that he wanted a ride to New Britain to see his girlfriend, but they never made it. Young would not say who his girlfriend was.
Young reported that he woke up in New Britain and he was drunk. He had been drinking Hennessey along with Caleb and Zo. Young reported that when he woke up, Zo and Caleb were arguing and that there were police behind them. Caleb was telling Zo to go back to Hartford. Young then reports that they were smacked by a police car and Young heard gas revving and gunshots. Young said he heard over 20 gunshots and heard Caleb say he had been hit. Young reported that he had been ducking behind Caleb’s seat. Young said he heard police say to get out of the car and put your hands up. Young stated that he did so and was placed in cuffs and searched.
Young maintained that the police had struck them first, but also stated that Zo was “tweaking.”
Both Bloomfield warrants for Young were for Use of a Motor Vehicle Without Owner’s Permission.
While being processed for Gun Residue Testing, Mr. Young reported that his uncle has a gun and showed it to him the day prior.
It should also be noted that Young’s ex-girlfriend reported that he had pointed a black handgun at her during a dispute over a sweatshirt. A warrant for this incident was approved on December 13, 2017, but not entered until December 18, 2017.
Iris Amaro was interviewed as part of the neighborhood canvass. She reported that at 6:45 p.m. she and her husband were leaving their garage to go to church. As they were leaving, she saw a number of police cars chasing a car. She did not see the car that was being chased and recalled that all the officers were in their vehicles. She returned home from church at 9:00 p.m. At that time there was a great deal of police activity in the area and the roads were blocked off. She saw a green car and recognized it from seeing it on East Street several times. She recalled telling her husband that the car was not from the area. She also reported that the green car was the same car her daughter had seen on Fairview Avenue in New Britain the Monday before. Her daughter had witnessed the occupants of the green car committing a carjacking.
On December 15, 2017, Diane Leclair of New Britain was interviewed by the Connecticut State Police at her residence on Chapman Court. Ms. Leclair reported that on the evening of December 14, 2017, she was inside her apartment and heard a popping noise like firecrackers. She then heard tires squealing and a loud crash. She then heard multiple popping noises. Ms. Leclair then called 911 and was told the police were already aware of the situation. Ms. Leclair looked out her window and saw several police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances.
Ms. Leclair provided written consent to search her vehicle, which had been parked on Chapman Court. An apparent bullet hole was observed in the front windshield of the vehicle.
The materials provided pursuant to this investigation included criminal histories and other suspected criminal activity committed by the deceased and his two passengers. This information was considered only insofar as determining whether knowledge of previous recent criminal activity involving a firearm could contribute to an officer’s reasonable assessment of whether the victim posed a danger to himself, fellow officers, or the community. Other criminal activity not relevant to this question was neither reviewed nor considered.
General Statutes § 53a-22 (c) provides: "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 . . . [d]efend himself or herself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force, [or to] effect an arrest or prevent the escape from custody of a person whom he or she reasonably believes has committed or attempted to commit a felony which involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury and if, where feasible, he or she has given warning of his or her intent to use deadly physical force."
“Serious physical injury” is defined 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....” General Statutes § 53a–3(4).
"Self-defense is raised by way of justification, and when such defense is asserted ‘the state shall have the burden of disproving such defense beyond a reasonable doubt.’" State v. Gelormino , 24 Conn. App. 556, 561 (1991) (quoting General Statutes § 53a-12 (a)). "Whether the defense of the justified use of force, properly raised at trial, has been disproved by the state is a question of fact for the jury, to be determined from all the evidence in the case and the reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence." State v. Hallowell , 61 Conn. App. 463, 470 (2001).
"[T]he reasonableness of [an officer’s] belief under § 53a–22 should be evaluated pursuant to [a] subjective-objective formulation. Under that test, the jury must first determine whether, on the basis of all the evidence, the [officer] in fact honestly believed that deadly force, rather than some lesser degree of force, was necessary to repel the victim's alleged attack. . . . If the jury determines that the [officer] honestly believed that deadly force was necessary, it then turns to the second, or ‘objective,’ part of the test. Here, the jury's inquiry requires it to determine whether the [officer’s] honest belief was reasonable." State v. Smith , 73 Conn. App. 173, 185, (2002).
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.
The United States Supreme Court has identified several factors relevant in analyzing an officer’s reasonableness: “[(i)] the severity of the crime at issue, [(ii)] whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, [(iii)] and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” Id. at 396.
With regard to the objective part of the test, "[t]he ‘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). "The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance 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. "[T]he question is whether the officers' actions are ‘objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Id. at 397. Although Graham v. Connor analyzes the Fourth Amendment’s "objective reasonableness" standard in a civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the standard has been applied in cases arising from a state’s prosecution of an on-duty police officer for excessive use of force. See id. at 395 (" all claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force—deadly or not—in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other ‘seizure’ of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its ‘reasonableness’ standard" [emphasis in original]); see also, e.g. , State v. Mantelli , 42 P.3d 272, 277 (N.M. Ct. App. 2002) (reviewing uniformed officer’s convictions of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and shooting at a motor vehicle resulting in injury); Pagotto v. State , 732 A.2d 920, 961 (Md. App. 1999) (reversing officer’s conviction of involuntary manslaughter in connection with shooting death of motorist; citing Graham v. Connor as "[t]he landmark case establishing the standard for measuring claims that an officer used excessive force"); but see People v. Mehserle , 206 Cal.App.4th 1125, 1145-48 (2012) (concluding that, under California law, higher intent standard does not apply to involuntary manslaughter committed by on-duty police officer; rejecting defendant’s reliance on § 1983 cases like Graham v. Connor because "civil rights cases involve standards different from those of the general criminal law").
In State v. Smith , our Appellate Court defined the subjective-objective test for evaluating self-defense under General Statutes § 53a-22. 73 Conn. App. at 185-86. Consistent with the rule of Graham v. Connor , the Court held that "in addressing the objective part of the test . . . , the standard is that of a reasonable peace officer ." Id. at 185 n.5. After applying that standard, the Court further held that the state had presented sufficient evidence to disprove the justification defense put forth by the defendant, a New Milford police officer who had fatally shot an apprehended person. Id. at 186. "The defendant's attempt to show that his belief that deadly force was necessary and therefore reasonable depend[ed] in large part on his testimony that the victim refused to show his hands. The jury was, however, entitled to believe other testimony contradicting the defendant's account of the incident." (Footnote omitted.) Id. at 186-87. Nevertheless, the Court reversed the defendant’s manslaughter conviction and remanded the case for a new trial because the trial court had improperly excluded expert testimony on the use of force by a police officer. Id. at 199-202.
USE OF FORCE UPON INDIVIDUALS DRIVING A MOTOR VEHICLE
In Plumhoff v. Rickard , 134 S.Ct. 2012 (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court held that officers acted reasonably in using deadly force to terminate a dangerous high-speed chase. Id. at 2022. "Under the circumstances at the moment when the shots were fired, all that a reasonable police officer could have concluded was that Rickard was intent on resuming his flight and that, if he was allowed to do so, he would once again pose a deadly threat for others on the road." Id. In Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007), the Court held that the respondent county deputy acted reasonably when he terminated a chase by ramming his vehicle into the vehicle of a fleeing motorist. Id. at 386. "Although there is no obvious way to quantify the risks on either side, it is clear from the videotape that respondent posed an actual and imminent threat to the lives of any pedestrians who might have been present, to other civilian motorists, and to the officers involved in the chase." Id. at 383-84.
On the night of December 14, 2017, multiple officers of the New Britain Police Department were following a Toyota Paseo which they had substantial reason to believe had recently been involved in numerous violent crimes. Officers based their decision to follow the suspect vehicle not merely on its make and model, but also upon confirmation of its license plate number that was specifically connected to the most recent incident. Based on their knowledge of a previous carjacking attempt only days prior, involving the same vehicle, during which shots were fired at the intended victim, it was reasonable for investigating officers to conclude that there was a substantial probability that the occupants of the vehicle were armed and represented a significant threat to the community.
Pursuing officers ultimately selected a relatively narrow residential street upon which to effectuate a stop of the Toyota to further their investigation. The dashcam video recorded by NBPD Car 43 shows five police operated vehicles being involved in the attempt to block and prevent further movement of the Toyota.
Shortly after the Toyota came to a stop, it was struck in the rear by police officers in an unmarked vehicle. The Toyota then accelerated in reverse, colliding with the police vehicle. Coinciding with this collision, the suspect vehicle skidded out of control and struck a second police vehicle, before spinning around and becoming stuck on an embankment. At this point, numerous officers can be seen out of their vehicles with guns drawn, shouting commands at the occupants of the Toyota. The suspect vehicle remained stuck until it was struck by Officer Mocarsky’s vehicle, at which time it became dislodged and jerked forward towards several officers. It is at this point several officers can be seen and heard discharging their weapons at the vehicle. The front seat passenger of the vehicle, later identified as Caleb Tisdol can be seen raising his hands in an apparent attempt to surrender and display to police that he was unarmed. Unfortunately, this gesture from a passenger, which may have been visible to some but not all of the officers present, did not curtail the risk of physical injury or death to the officers who were in the vehicle’s path nor did it reduce the risk to citizens in the event that the vehicle and its occupants managed to escape. The vehicle did, in fact, manage to maneuver past the police cordon before crashing into a parked pickup truck.
A total of 28 shots were fired within a span of approximately 10 seconds while the car maneuvered to escape the police barricade. Subsequent examination by Connecticut State Police investigators revealed that 13 of these were observed to have impacted the Toyota. A 14th was recovered from an uninvolved civilian vehicle. The impact locations of the other 14 bullets are unknown.
Zoe Dowdell, the operator of the vehicle, sustained gunshot wounds from police bullets to both thighs, the neck and the head as well as a graze wound to his left hand. It is likely that one bullet caused both wounds to the thighs. The path of these wounds supports the conclusion that Dowdell was struck by rounds fired by one or more New Britain police officers who were generally located on the driver’s side and behind the vehicle. As a result of condition of the spent bullets recovered in connection with this investigation, no ballistic comparison or other forensic analysis permits a determination of which officer fired the fatal shot.
Officer Kyle Jones : Officer Jones appears to be the first individual to fire at the suspect vehicle. While Officer Jones is firing his weapon, the suspect vehicle is accelerating forward. While review of the footage suggests there was opportunity for Officer Jones to step out of the way of the vehicle, Officer Jones nonetheless had a reasonable belief that he and other officers were at risk of death or imminent bodily harm. Officer Jones does report that the suspect vehicle reversed into the Acura, striking the Acura and then his own vehicle. However, it is possible that from his vantage, he believed this is what occurred, given that the suspect vehicle was clearly the one to strike Officer Jones’s vehicle.
The use of deadly physical force by Officer Kyle Jones was justified. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice with respect to Officer Jones.
Detective Christopher Kiely : Detective Kiely appears to be the second officer to fire at the suspect vehicle. While he is firing, the suspect vehicle is indeed driving on the sidewalk in his direction. Officer Kiely does attempt to get out of the way, and the vehicle continues towards him before fully swerving onto the sidewalk. Given the direction and unpredictable path of the vehicle, Detective Kiely had a reasonable belief that he was at risk of death or imminent bodily harm.
Detective Kiely also reports that the suspect vehicle reversed into the Acura. However, it is likely that from his vantage point, behind both vehicles, this is a mistake and not deliberate misstatement, especially as the vehicle did rapidly move towards the second vehicle.
Detective Kiely reports being unaware that there were passengers in the vehicle, as he was focused on the driver. Although it is clear that officers were aware of three occupants, it is unclear whether Detective Kiely’s vehicle received this information. Notable Sgt. Prisavage’s statement makes no mention of the number of vehicle occupants.
The use of deadly physical force by Det. Christopher Kiely was justified. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice with respect to Detective Kiely.
Detective Michael Slavin : The State Police investigation in this case supports a finding that Det. Slavin fired nine shots after the suspect vehicle had passed all officers. Although the immediate threat of death or imminent bodily harm to the police officers present at the initial encounter may have ended once the suspect vehicle had cleared the officers, Det. Slavin along with other officers present faced a dilemma regarding their duty to protect the public from a dangerous fleeing fugitive who had engaged in conduct likely to cause serious physical injury or death.
Detective Slavin’s use of deadly physical force was justified to stop a fleeing individual who he reasonably believed to be responsible for multiple violent felonies involving the use of a firearm.
No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice with respect to Det. Slavin.
Detective Marcin Ratajczak: Detective Ratacjzak’s statement that his vehicle was violently struck by the suspect vehicle is inconsistent with multiple accounts. In the dash cam footage, it appears that the unmarked car did in fact strike the Toyota first, consistent with Noah Young’s account that they were struck by the police car. As with Detective Slavin, the 11 shots fired by Detective Ratajczak came after the vehicle had passed all officers, and the vehicle no longer presented an obvious threat to strike officers. However, as with Detective Slavin, Detective Ratajczak was aware that the individuals in this car, with confirmed license plates, were linked to several violent felonies, one of which occurred only three days earlier, and involved the discharge of a firearm at a fleeing victim. The failure to stop the vehicle could reasonably have been expected to put the community at risk by allowing the escape from custody “of a person whom [the New Britain officers present] reasonably believe[d] has committed or attempted to commit a felony which involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury”. General Statutes § 53a-22 (c).
The use of deadly physical force by Det. Ratajczak was justified. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Detective Chad Nelson: Detective Nelson, as a member of the “Street Crimes Unit,” was required to analyze and assess criminal trends that existed within the City of New Britain and the surrounding area. In the course of his duties, he had recently become aware of numerous carjackings and related crimes occurring within the City as well as the greater Hartford area. Information conveyed to him contained the additional detail that three to four male subjects were involved, some of whom were armed. On the evening of December 14, 2017, while parked in front of police headquarters in an unmarked car, Nelson heard a radio transmission alerting him that other officers where following the Toyota. He immediately proceeded to their location to participate in the stop of the vehicle.
As noted above, several aspects of Detective Nelson's recollection of events are not consistent with what was recorded on the dashcams. Although, subjectively, his actions may have been motivated, in part, by false perceptions, possibly brought on by the stressful events, the objective circumstances support his conduct. His belief at the time of the incident, that a police officer had been struck by the vehicle, was incorrect but the potential for such result was obvious.
Therefore, as with Detectives Slavin and Ratajczak, Detective Nelson was justified in using deadly physical force to stop what he had reason to believe was a threat to the community and his fellow officers.
No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Detective Michael Silveiro: Detective Silveiro did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Sgt. John Blackmore: Sgt. Blackmore did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Detective Lawrence Smith: Detective Lawrence Smith did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Detective Christopher Strzalka: Detective Strzalka did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Sgt. John Prisavage: Sgt. John Prisavage did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Officer Brandon Egan : Officer Brandon Egan did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Officer David Mocarsky : Officer David Mocarsky did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
Officer Ryan Coleman: Officer Ryan Coleman did not use deadly physical force. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
/s/ John Smriga
Judicial District of Fairfield
Note: File size may result in buffering delays, which may be avoided by downloading and then viewing the files.
Dash-cam video recorded December 14, 2017, from New Britain Police Department Vehicle # 41 (Normal View - mp4 file - File size 41 MB).
Dash-cam video recorded December 14, 2017, from New Britain Police Department Vehicle # 41 (Wide View - mp4 file, File size 26 MB).
Dash-cam video recorded December 14, 2017, from New Britain Police Department Vehicle # 43 (mp4 file, File Size 416MB).
 It was later determined that the victim’s car had been struck by a .45 caliber bullet fired from the pistol found in the vehicle near Zoe Dowdell after he was shot by the New Britain police. Since the presence of this firearm in the vehicle driven by Zoe Dowdell and the connection of this specific weapon to a prior crime was not known at the time of the incident that is the subject of this investigation, it has not been considered in the conclusions of this report.
 A decision was made by State’s Attorney Peter A. McShane, who was initially assigned to conduct this investigation, to require the officers involved in the incident to provide a written statement to State Police Investigators prior to having an opportunity to view any video recording of the events that are the subject of this investigation.
 A review of the dash cam video appears to show an unmarked police vehicle colliding with the rear of the Toyota before the Toyota reversed and initiated a second collision with the police vehicle.
 See footnote 8.
 See footnote 5.
 It is the conclusion of this report that Detective Nelson’s reported recollections regarding a police officer being dragged, and a muzzle flash coming from inside the subject car are false. Regarding his report of the sensation of bullets flying past his head, although bullets were “flying” intermittently for approximately 10 seconds, it is clear based upon subsequent investigation that none originated from inside the subject vehicle.