Statement of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New Haven Concerning an Officer-Involved Use of Deadly Physical Force in Meriden on October 18, 2018
Introduction | Incident Summary | Description of the Scene | Emergency Medical Response | Medical Records | Participants Accounts | Law Concerning the Use of Deadly Force by a Police Officer | Conclusion | Footnotes
On October 18, 2018, at approximately 10:20 p.m., members of the Meriden Police Department (MPD) were involved in a non-fatal shooting incident in the City of Meriden in the parking lot of the CVS Pharmacy located at 839 East Main Street, during which Ryan Holley was shot. The officers encountered Holley and his front seat passenger during their investigation of suspected narcotics activity. Holley was transported from the scene via ambulance to Hartford Hospital for serious, but non-life threatening injuries. No other person was injured during this incident.
Initial Investigative Response
Meriden Police officers responded to and secured the shooting scene. In accordance with existing New Haven State’s Attorney’s Office (NHSAO) protocol related to officer involved shootings, State’s Attorney Patrick J. Griffin was promptly notified of the incident. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §51-277a and Division of Criminal Justice policy, State’s Attorney Griffin thereafter notified Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane that the Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad (CDMCS) had been requested to process the scene and conduct the investigation. State’s Attorney Griffin further reported that Holley was hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds. Due to Holley’s expected recovery from his injuries, Chief State’s Attorney Kane directed State’s Attorney Griffin to retain jurisdiction to supervise the investigation. See Connecticut General Statutes §51-277a(b) (rev. to 2019) (on date of incident statute required Chief State’s Attorney to designate a State’s Attorney from another Judicial District to conduct the investigation only in the event of a death); see also footnote 1, infra.
Per NHSAO protocol, State’s Attorney Griffin, along with Inspector Kevin Grenier, arrived on scene at approximately 11:00 p.m. and remained until approximately 2:00 a.m. to coordinate investigative resources.
On February 13, 2019, the CDMCS provided the NHSAO with copies of investigative materials which included, inter alia, the initial report, investigation report, evidence report, video reports, primary digital photographs, secondary digital photographs, sketch map report, witness statements, Hunter’s Ambulance reports, forensic laboratory reports, body camera video reports, body camera footage, radio dispatch/911 call reports, vehicle survey reports, bullet strike report, consents to search, MPD General Orders – Use of Force Policy and supplemental reports. Subsequently, CDMCS provided the NHSAO with Holley’s medical records.
On October 10, 2019, the Connecticut State Forensic Laboratory provided the NHSAO with an amended firearms report.
On November 1, 2019, the CDMCS provided the NHSAO with a supplemental firearms report.
On October 18, 2018, a non-fatal shooting incident occurred at 839 East Main Street in the City of Meriden involving members of the MPD. The officers involved were assigned to the Crime Suppression Unit (CSU) and the Special Crimes Unit (SCU). The involved officers were identified as Detective Michael Fonda, Officer John Dorais, Officer Benjamin Pellegrini, Officer David D’Onofrio and Detective Jad Hadir. All five officers were clad in plain clothes and wearing outer tactical vests with “POLICE” labeled on them. During the incident the officers were driving a Toyota SUV (SUV). The SUV was unmarked and not equipped with emergency lights or siren.
At approximately 10:00 pm, while patrolling the area of West Main Street and Goodwill Avenue, the officers observed a male later identified as Michael Thurman standing on the corner. Thurman was observed entering a white Buick Century (Buick), later determined to be operated by Ryan Holley. Based on information received earlier in the evening, officers believed the occupants of the Buick Century were involved in possible illegal narcotics activity.
The officers followed the Buick onto Interstate 691 east. While in the vicinity of exit 8, Detective Fonda, who was operating the SUV, moved into the center lane and pulled alongside the Buick. Detective Hadir was the rear left passenger, Officer Pelligrini was the rear middle passenger and Officer D’Onofrio was the rear right passenger. Officer Dorais, who was the front seat passenger, then shined his flashlight into the Buick’s passenger compartment in an apparent attempt to identify the occupants. The officers did not recognize the occupants and continued east ahead of the Buick and exited the Interstate at exit 10.
As officers were exiting the Interstate, Detective Fonda observed the Buick approaching from behind, at a high rate of speed. Upon merging onto Route 15, Detective Fonda changed lanes and continued traveling in the far left lane. Holley, who was traveling behind the officers, accelerated his Buick until he was roughly parallel with the SUV. Officers reported hearing an apparent gunshot. Officers D’Onofrio and Dorais reported observing a possible muzzle flash from inside the Buick. At this point officers believed that they were being fired upon from the occupants of the Buick. Detective Fonda immediately pulled behind the Buick and followed as it exited Route 15. Both vehicles pulled into the parking area of CVS Pharmacy, located at 839 East Main Street, Meriden.
Once in the parking lot, the Buick began traveling west across the front of the lot. Holley swung open the driver’s side door while the Buick was still in motion. Holley then quickly exited the Buick with a firearm in his left hand.
Officers stopped and exited their vehicle, identified themselves as police officers and instructed Holley to drop his firearm. Holley failed to comply and three officers discharged their weapons striking Holley several times. A Ruger SRC 9mm handgun was located adjacent to where Holley fell. Officers immediately rendered aid to Holley and requested an ambulance.
The Buick had ultimately come to a stop after it rolled onto the curb of the parking lot. Michael Thurman, the passenger, was removed from the Buick and detained for questioning. Holley was transported from the scene by Hunter’s Ambulance to Hartford Hospital for treatment of his injuries.
The incident occurred in the front (north) parking lot of the CVS Pharmacy located at 839 East Main Street, Meriden, Connecticut. The CVS is located on the southeast corner of the intersection of East Main Street and Paddock Avenue and was open at the time of the incident. The parking lot can be accessed through the entrance and exits from either East Main Street, located to the north, or Paddock Avenue, located to the southwest. The parking lot is bordered to the south by the CVS building and to the east by the front of a Wendy’s restaurant. The Buick operated by Ryan Holley was at final rest in the northwest corner of the parking lot, facing northwest. The right front tire and right rear tire were on the curb; the driver’s side front door and rear doors were open and the passenger’s side front and rear doors were open.
In the middle of the parking lot was the CSU/SCU’s 2018 Toyota Highlander, 4 door SUV, color brown, facing northwest, with the driver’s side front and rear doors open and the passenger’s side front and rear doors open. The passenger’s side front window was down while the rest of the windows were closed.
CDMCS processed the scene at 839 East Main Street and seized ten (10) expended Winchester .45 caliber shell casings from the area and from within the SUV. The shell casings were sent to the CT State Forensic Science Laboratory of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP) for scientific analysis and comparison. DESPP has identified all ten (10) of the expended shell casings as being fired from three (3) of the Meriden Police officers’ weapons; four (4) being fired from Detective Fonda’s weapon, one (1) being fired from Officer Dorais’ weapon and five (5) being fired from Officer Pellegrini’s weapon.
Additionally, CDMCS located Holley’s jacket at the scene and it appeared to have a bullet hole in the arm. Upon examination, one (1) projectile fell from the jacket and was collected as evidence. The projectile was sent to the laboratory at DESPP for scientific analysis and comparison. DESPP has identified the projectile as being fired from Detective Fonda’s weapon.
CDMCS investigators inventoried the involved officers’ pistols and magazines. Detective Fonda’s ten (10) round magazine contained six (6) Winchester .45 caliber Auto+P rounds, and with (1) round found in the chamber. Detective Dorais’ thirteen (13) capacity magazine contained twelve (12) Winchester .45 caliber Auto+P rounds, with one (1) round found in the chamber. Officer Pellegrini’s thirteen (13) round capacity magazine contained eight (8) Winchester .45 caliber Auto+P rounds, with one (1) round found in the chamber. Officer D’Onofrio’s department issued Glock 21 .45 caliber pistol was found to be at full capacity - thirteen (13) rounds, with one (1) round found in the chamber. Detective Hadir’s Glock 21 .45 caliber pistol was also found to be at full capacity - thirteen (13) rounds, with one (1) round also found in the chamber.
CDMCS investigators reviewed the CVS video, which partially captured the two involved vehicles as they entered the CVS parking lot from East Main Street, however, it did not capture the officers discharging their weapons or anything that followed. No other surveillance cameras in the area captured the incident.
On October 25, 2018, the vehicles involved in the incident were processed and surveyed in the secured garage at the Connecticut State Police barracks at Troop I-Bethany. During the vehicle processing of the1999 Buick Century, one (1) expended Hornady 9mm luger shell casing and one (1) bullet fragment were located and seized as evidence. The DESPP has identified this casing as having been fired from Holley’s 9mm handgun. A survey of the vehicle identified, inter alia, that the driver’s side front windshield was damaged and contained one (1) suspected bullet hole from the interior of the vehicle toward the exterior front hood.
During the vehicle processing of the 2018 Toyota Highlander SUV, three (3) expended Winchester .45 caliber shell casings and one (1) bullet fragment were located and seized as evidence. A survey of the vehicle identified, inter alia, that the driver’s side front windshield was damaged and contained five (5) suspected bullet holes from the interior of the vehicle toward the exterior of the vehicle.
At the time of the incident, the SUV was not equipped with a Mobile Video Recorder (MVR) and none of the officers involved were wearing body cameras.
A Hunter’s Ambulance Service ambulance was dispatched at 10:24 p.m. and arrived on scene at approximately 10:25 p.m. Holley was transported from the scene at approximately 10:36 p.m. and arrived at Hartford Hospital at approximately 11:03 p.m. Holley’s injuries were documented at the scene as a gunshot wound to his right wrist and a gunshot wound to his left elbow.
On October 24, 2018, CDMCS investigators obtained written consent for the medical records of Ryan Holley for his treatment at Hartford Hospital. On January 4, 2019, Hartford Hospital provided the records which document that Holley sustained two (2) gunshot wounds to the right hand and wrist and two (2) gunshot wounds (anterior and posterior) to the left elbow area, with evidence of an entry wound in the forearm and an exit wound near the left elbow. An X-ray examination revealed fractures to the right wrist and an open fracture to the left elbow. Because no identifiable projectiles were recovered from the person of Ryan Holley, it is not possible to reasonably determine which officer or officers caused physical injury.
Detective Michael Fonda – CSU
Detective Fonda authored an MPD investigative report dated October 23, 2018. He subsequently provided an audio taped statement to CDMCS investigators on November 14, 2018. The following is a synopsis of the information provided by Detective Fonda related to the events that occurred in the CVS parking lot at the time of the shooting.
Detective Fonda indicated that once both vehicles were in the CVS parking lot, the Buick began traveling west across the front of the lot. Holley swung open the driver’s side door of the Buick open while it was still in motion. Based upon his belief that Holley was going to fire upon members of the MPD, Fonda opened his door. Holley quickly exited his Buick with a handgun in his hand. At this point, Detective Fonda heard what he perceived to be a gunshot.
Detective Fonda “slammed” the SUV into park and exited with his department issued Glock 30 handgun in hand. Detective Fonda ordered Holley to drop his gun approximately two (2) times. Holley failed to comply. Holley then raised his arm and pointed his handgun in the direction of Detective Fonda and the other officers. Detective Fonda fired his handgun approximately four (4) times at Holley, who fell to the ground. Detective Fonda observed Holley’s handgun on the ground in close proximity to where he was lying.
Detective John Dorais – CSU
Detective Dorais authored an MPD supplemental report dated October 23, 2018. He subsequently provided an audio taped statement to CDMCS investigators on November 14, 2018. The following is a synopsis of the information provided by Detective Dorais related to the events that occurred in the CVS parking lot at the time of the shooting.
Detective Dorais reported that Holley exited the Buick armed with a handgun. Detective Dorais exited the SUV with his department issued Glock 21 handgun in hand. Detective Dorais observed Holley point his handgun in the direction of the SUV and heard what he perceived to be a gunshot originating from Holley’s handgun. Detective Dorais reported that he fired his gun one (1) time and observed Holley drop his handgun and fall to the ground.
Detective Jad Hadir – SCU
Detective Hadir authored an MPD supplemental report dated October 22, 2018. He subsequently provided an audio taped statement to CDMCS investigators on December 13, 2018. The following is a synopsis of the information provided by Detective Hadir related to the events that occurred in the CVS parking lot at the time of the shooting.
Detective Hadir reported that Detective Fonda stopped the SUV in the middle of the CVS parking lot behind the Buick. Detective Hadir exited the SUV with his department issued Glock 21 handgun in hand. Detective Hadir ran around the rear of the SUV, utilizing it as cover. He heard loud police commands, followed by gunfire that lasted approximately two (2) seconds. He was unable to determine the location or origin of the gunfire. When the firing ceased he observed a black handgun on the ground near Holley. Information provided by Detective Hadir reflects that he did not fire his department issued Glock 21 handgun during the incident.
Officer David D’Onofrio – CSU
Officer D’Onofrio authored an MPD supplemental report dated October 22, 2018. He subsequently provided an audio taped statement to CDMCS investigators on December 5, 2018. The following is a synopsis of the information provided by Officer D’Onofrio related to the events that occurred in the CVS parking lot at the time of the shooting.
Officer D’Onofrio indicated that he observed Holley exit the Buick as it continued to move forward across the parking lot. According to D’Ononfrio, Holley was looking in the direction of the SUV with his arm extended. Hearing gunfire, D’Onofrio exited the SUV and observed Holley fall to the ground. D’Onofrio reported that he did not fire his department issued Glock 21 handgun during the incident.
Officer Benjamin Pellegrini – CSU
Officer Pellegrini authored an MPD supplemental report dated October 22, 2018. He declined to be interviewed by CDMCS investigators. The following is a synopsis of the information provided by Officer Pellegrini related to the events that occurred in the CVS parking lot at the time of the shooting.
Officer Pellegrini reported that he witnessed Holley exit the Buick as it was still in motion. Upon exiting, Holley had his back to the officers and he was holding a handgun in his right hand. Pellegrini heard “…a loud bang of a firearm being fired and a short flash of light believing to be associated with the muzzle flash.” Pellegrini heard an officer identify himself and command Holley to drop the handgun. While still seated in the SUV, Pellegrini looked through the front windshield and observed Holley point his handgun at officers. Fearing for the safety of his fellow officers, as well as his own, he fired his department issued Glock 21 handgun through the front windshield in the direction of Holley approximately four (4) to five (5) times.
Ryan Holley provided an audiotaped statement to CDMCS investigators on October 19, 2018. The following is a synopsis of his recollection of the events surrounding the shooting incident.
Holley reported that he picked up his co-worker, Mike Thurman, on West Main Street in Meriden. He noticed a car following him on Interstate 691. Holley then increased his vehicle’s speed, but the car pulled alongside the right side of his Buick. In an attempt to create space from the second vehicle, Holley entered the middle lane, but the second vehicle switched lanes behind him and pulled up alongside him on the left. As both vehicles traveled side by side, an occupant in the second vehicle shined a flashlight in Holley’s direction. Holley described this light as a “police flashlight” due to its brightness. He was then able to observe the vehicle to be a brown or burgundy SUV.
The SUV then increased its speed and drove ahead of Holley’s vehicle. As both vehicles exited Interstate 691 to merge onto Route 15, the SUV abruptly slowed down causing Holley to hit his brakes. The SUV then accelerated and again abruptly slowed down. Holley described this as “playing chicken.” When the SUV was to the left of his Buick, Holley reached into his glove compartment and retrieved his loaded, registered, Ruger SR9C semi-automatic handgun with the stated intention of showing the occupants of the SUV that he was “a registered gun owner…you better leave me alone.” Holley reported that he took this action because he was “scared” and upon grabbing the handgun he accidentally discharged one round through the middle of the left side of the front windshield.
Holley reported that the SUV was still following him at a close distance and he began looking for a well-lit, public area to stop. He entered the CVS parking lot and the SUV entered the same lot stopping behind Holley’s vehicle. Holley exited his vehicle, faced the SUV with his handgun in his left hand “not to shoot anybody but to just let them know, hey I’m a registered gun owner, I don’t want no problems.” Holley stated that possibly two (2) or three (3) of the occupants of the SUV were standing outside their vehicle and yelled “Police, put down the gun.” He did not realize the occupants of the SUV were police officers until they began giving him commands and did not believe that his handgun was raised high enough to aim at the police officers as “it all happened so fast.” When he heard the commands, he reported that he “froze” and did not drop his handgun until he was shot.
Ryan Holley provided MPD officers a verbal statement while receiving treatment at Hartford Hospital on October 18, 2018 for his injuries. Holley’s verbal statement was memorialized on Meriden Police Officer Joseph Sordi’s Axon body camera as follows:
Can I be honest with you guys? When this happened, right, the car was unmarked. I’ll put it to you like this, I grew up in Seattle, right, I’ve had situations where dark tinted vehicles pulled up on me and pistols were drawn, you know, shots fired. I didn’t get hit but the car drives off going different direction. So, that’s just a flash back, I got a PTSD from that.
So you know, me being a registered gun owner, I don’t grab my gun unless I feel threatened you know what I’m saying. So, I didn’t know what the car was doin, we hopped on the, I don’t know what the, the exit is to get on Lewis Avenue, I don’t know what that is but I take that exit to go to work every day, every night.
So, I picked up my guy to go to work. This car’s behind me like driving erratic soon as we get on the freeway, I’m doin a decent amount of speed to like try and get away from the car. I’m like who is this so, pulls up on the right so I, my guy’s like, who is that and I’m like, I don’t know you know what I’m sayin’ we don’t know who this is.
So, he pulls, so then I, I keep going, I get in the middle lane I keep going straight and he speeds up flashes a light on me so I was like what is going on here? So, that’s when I grab my, grab my thing and when we got off on the exit I was just, I was usually if I pull my pistol I don’t pull it shoot it, I just pull it to like warn a person like, you know get away from me but the gun went off, by accident.
So, that’s when I pulled off, pulled into the CVS and I got out, I had the gun on me. Once they got out, they identified themselves as officers that’s when I backed off, I was like all right, cool and they shot me and that was it so
I expected them to do that if they were police officers so I’m not mad at the situation at all so, I’m not mad at all.
Michael Thurman provided an audiotaped statement to CDMCS investigators on October 18, 2018. The following is a synopsis of his recollection of the events surrounding the shooting incident.
Thurman reported that the SUV followed them into the parking lot and that Holley got out of the Buick. He indicated that the people in the SUV also exited their vehicle. Thurman did not hear any voices at all, he just heard shooting and saw Holley fall to the ground. The people in the SUV came over and took him out of the car. He estimated that the entire incident lasted approximately ten (10) seconds.
Connecticut General Statutes §53a-22(c) permits a police officer, inter alia, to use deadly physical force upon another person when he reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. “Deadly physical force” is defined by Connecticut General Statutes
§53a-3(5) as “physical force that can be reasonably expected to cause death or serious physical injury,” while “serious physical injury” is defined by Connecticut General Statutes §53a-3(4) as “physical injury, which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.”
The test to determine whether an officer’s belief is reasonable pursuant to §53a-22 is both subjective and objective. State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173, 198, cert. denied, 262 Conn. 923 (2002). First, the officer must honestly believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or another from the imminent use of deadly physical force in the immediate circumstances. Id.
The second part of the test requires that the officer’s belief be objectively reasonable. Id. That is, if the officer in fact believed that deadly force was necessary, it must then be determined whether that belief was reasonable, from the perspective of a reasonable police officer in the officer’s circumstances. Id., citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396(1989) (evaluating reasonableness of police officer’s belief that deadly force justified in context of fourth amendment excessive use of force claims, stating that “[t]he [objective] 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.”)
During the course of this investigation the NHSAO made numerous attempts to contact Ryan Holley for the purpose of scheduling a meeting with State’s Attorney Griffin to discuss the facts related to this incident. On July 17, 2019, The NHSAO left a detailed phone message requesting that Holley contact the office. This and follow-up telephone calls went unanswered. On October 25, 2019, NHSAO Inspectors went to Ryan Holley’s last known address and explained to him personally that the State’s Attorney wished to schedule a meeting before issuing a public statement in this case. Holley indicated that he did not wish to meet with anyone from the NHSAO. A final call was placed to Holley on October 28, 2019, and he again reiterated his refusal to meet with NHSAO staff. Holley was advised that the State’s Attorney would issue a public statement within the month.
Based upon the preceding facts and circumstances as found by the CDMCS, and pursuant to prevailing Connecticut law, State’s Attorney Griffin concludes that Detective Michael Fonda, Detective John Dorais, and Officer Benjamin Pellegrini of the Meriden Police Department were justified in discharging their firearms pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §53a-22(c).
While Ryan Holley initially had no way of knowing that MPD officers were operating the unmarked SUV, he made the conscious and deliberate decision to attempt to display his registered pistol to its occupants, and in doing so accidentally discharged one (1) round into his own windshield. By firing this round he endangered the life of his passenger as well as potential motorists in the vicinity. Further, Holley failed to obey the officers’ commands to put down his firearm as he emerged from a moving vehicle in the CVS parking lot, compelling the officers’ use of deadly physical force. Thankfully for all parties involved this tragic set of circumstances did not result in a fatality.
Accordingly, based on the law as outlined above, these facts would not support criminal charges. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice with respect to the officers involved.
State’s Attorney Griffin would like to thank Commissioner James Rovella and the Connecticut State Police, in particular the CDMCS investigators, as well as the Connecticut State Forensic Laboratory, who have worked continuously to complete this thorough, and rigorous investigation.
 On the date of this incident C.G.S. §51-277a (rev. to 2019) required the Division of Criminal Justice to conduct an investigation, utilizing appropriate law enforcement agencies, “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.” In the event of a death, C.G.S. §51-277a (b) required the Chief State’s Attorney to designate a State’s Attorney from another Judicial District to conduct the investigation. Further, C.G.S. §51-277a(c) required the designated State’s Attorney to determine, upon completion of the investigation, the circumstances of the incident, whether deadly physical force was appropriate pursuant to C.G.S. §53a-22, and any future action to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of the incident. Effective October 1, 2019, P.A. 19-90 §3 amended §51-277a to include all peace officers’ use of deadly physical force, as defined in
§53a-3, upon another person regardless of whether such person dies as a result thereof.
 CDMCS did not discover any evidence that either Holley or Thurman were engaged in narcotics activity.
 On October 19, 2018, Ryan Holley provided CDMCS investigators with an audio taped statement in which he acknowledged accidentally discharging his firearm inside of his Buick.
 Holley failed to place the Buick in park and it continued to roll before coming to rest approximately thirty-six feet from the initial point of contact with police.
 CDMCS scene investigators did not locate any evidence to support that Holley fired his gun in the CVS parking lot.