Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Windham Concerning the Death of John J. Carras on September 5, 2019, in East Hartford, Connecticut
Applicable Law | Timeline | Circumstances of the Incident | Law Regarding the Use of Deadly Force by a Police Officer | Determination Concerning the Appropriateness of the Use of Deadly Force | Conclusion | Footnotes
The following is a report concerning the tragic death of John J. Carras in East Hartford, Connecticut, on September 5, 2019. I wish to extend my condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Mr. Carras.
Section 51-277a of the General Statutes provides in part that, 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.
Pursuant to Section 51-277a (b), the Chief State’s Attorney designated a prosecutorial official from a judicial district other than the judicial district in which the event occurred to conduct the investigation. East Hartford is located within the Hartford Judicial District. On September 5, 2019, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane assigned the investigation of the use of deadly force to the undersigned State’s Attorney of the Judicial District of Windham.
In light of the fact that the initial reason police responded to the home of John Carras on September 5, 2019 was a domestic violence incident, the victims’ identities are being kept confidential in this report. John Carras was known as a well-respected professional and loving family man. He also suffered from intense jealousy in his interpersonal relationship with an adult female hereafter referred to as Victim One. On September 5, 2019, Mr. Carras discovered a text on Victim One’s phone that enraged him because it came from her colleague after school hours. He began to argue with her and struck her. She tried to leave the home out the deck door off the kitchen. He dragged her back into the home kicking and screaming for help. Victim One and two juveniles (hereafter Victim Two and Victim Three) attempted to call 911. Although Mr. Carras knocked the phones out of their hands, one of the lines in the home remained open until the police arrived on scene.  Victim Two and Victim Three fled the home. Realizing Mr. Carras’ rage was not simply another “voice” fight with Victim One, Victim Two went to a neighbor’s home begging for help. A male neighbor (later identified as Tim Macfarlane) responded. Mr. Carras walked out onto his driveway to wave Victim Two and Victim Three back into the home.
A moment later, Victim Three went back into the home from the garage stairs and came back out to say Mr. Carras said everything was fine. Still outside, Victim Two implored Tim Macfarlane to do more because Victim Two said everything was not all right. Before Mr. Macfarlane moved, Victim Three came back out stating Mr. Carras had Victim One on the floor. On an open 911 line, Mr. Carras can be heard repeatedly telling Victim One she was done and telling her she was going to die. Neighbor Macfarlane asked if there were weapons in the home and when the response came back there weren’t, he proceeded into the house through the garage door and stairs. He called out and received no response. Once Mr. Macfarlane ascended the stairs, he could see Mr. Carras lying on the kitchen floor on the side of Victim One who was squirming but not making any noise. Mr. Macfarlane said he could see Victim One was pinned to the floor with Mr. Carras’ hands around Victim One’s neck and there was an intensity in Mr. Carras’ body. Mr. Macfarlane engaged Mr. Carras who responded by saying that everything was all right. However, Mr. Macfarlane could see Mr. Carras maintaining his stranglehold uninterrupted by their conversation. Mr. Carras told the neighbor everything was fine and told him to leave. Mr. Macfarlane told Mr. Carras he was calling 911. Mr. Carras did not move and simply told the neighbor to go ahead and call 911. Mr. Macfarlane exited the home and waited outside with Victim Two and Victim Three until police arrived.
At approximately 6:17 p.m. on September 5, 2019, the East Hartford Police Department received a 911 call from the Carras residence in East Hartford. A police dispatcher relayed to officers that there was an open line on a 911 call from which a female voice could be heard screaming. The dispatcher told the officers there was no history of police involvement at the residence. The dispatcher informed the officers that a female voice could be heard screaming, “Get help now.” The dispatcher also told responding officers that a male voice could be heard telling the female she was going to die.
Officer Lyew observed an adult white male (later identified as a neighbor Tim Macfarlane) and Victim 2 and Victim 3 in the middle of the street pointing to the Carras residence. Mr. Macfarlane told Officer Lyew the involved parties were in the kitchen. Officer Lyew climbed the flight of steps leading up to the rear deck of the second-story of the home. From the top railing of the deck to the ground is approximately 9’6”. Officer Lyew pushed against the cracked-open back door leading to the kitchen and saw a kneeling male (later identified as John Carras) with his hands around the neck of Victim One who was lying on the floor. Officer Lyew observed that Mr. Carras was strangling Victim One. Officer Lyew saw that Victim One’s face was purple and Victim One’s body appeared lifeless, and that John Carras continued to strangle Victim One. Officer Lyew noted that, as Mr. Carras continued to squeeze Victim One’s neck, the veins in his forearms were visible and his muscles flexed. According to Officer Lyew, Mr. Carras’ breathing also sounded heavy and strained.
While standing behind Mr. Carras, Officer Lyew pointed his department-issued weapon at Carras and instructed him to get off Victim One. Mr. Carras momentarily looked at Officer Lyew but maintained his stranglehold of Victim One and returned to face her. Officer Lyew yelled at Mr. Carras telling Mr. Carras to get off Victim One or Officer Lyew would shoot him. Mr. Carras finally complied. Officer Lyew heard Victim One’s head hit the floor as Mr. Carras removed his hands and stood to face the officer. Mr. Carras raised his hands above his head. Officer Lyew ordered Mr. Carras to turn around and walk backwards toward him (Officer Lyew) out onto the back deck. Officer Lyew instructed Mr. Carras to get down on the deck on his stomach with his hands away from his body, which Mr. Carras did. Officer Lyew directed the adult male neighbor to come up the stairs onto the deck, to go around Mr. Carras, and to check on Victim One who was lying unresponsive on the kitchen floor. The adult male then entered the residence to provide aid to Victim One.
At 6:25:14 p.m., Officer Daniel Zaleski reported to the dispatcher that he was on scene and out of his cruiser. At 6:25:24 p.m., Officer Lyew radioed that he was on the back deck with a male “proned out.” Officer Zaleski ran up the deck stairs toward Officer Lyew and observed that Mr. Carras was face down on the deck with his head toward the stairs. Officer Lyew told Officer Zaleski he had the latter covered, to allow Officer Zaleski to safely place Mr. Carras in handcuffs. However, as Officer Zaleski leaned down to attach the handcuffs, Mr. Carras brought his own legs under him and jumped up. Mr. Carras then punched Officer Zaleski several times in the face while screaming. Officer Lyew thought Officer Zaleski looked like he was becoming unconscious from Mr. Carras’ blows. Mr. Carras had placed Officer Zaleski in a headlock and struggled to get Officer Zaleski’s firearm.
Officer Lyew had been knocked back from where he was when Mr. Carras jumped up, and Mr. Carras’ back pressed against the muzzle of Officer Lyew’s firearm causing it to malfunction. Officer Lyew corrected the malfunction and holstered his firearm. Officer Lyew drew his Electro Shock Weapon, also known as a
Taser or Stun Gun. Mr. Carras turned from assaulting Officer Zaleski to rush at Officer Lyew. At 6:25:34 p.m., Officer Lyew deployed his Taser. Although the Taser probes struck Mr. Carras for five seconds, they did not have the intended effect of stopping Mr. Carras. Mr. Carras began to shout at Officer Lyew. Officer Lyew responded by moving toward Mr. Carras to attempt to drive stun Mr. Carras.  As Officer Lyew moved forward, Mr. Carras punched Officer Lyew in the head. Officer Lyew partially blocked the blow with his forearm but was knocked back into the doorframe of the kitchen. Briefly stunned, Officer Lyew next saw Mr. Carras trying to throw Officer Zaleski over the deck railing.
Officer Lyew dropped his Taser and unholstered his firearm and warned Mr. Carras he would shoot him if Mr. Carras did not stop. Officer Lyew stepped to his right, which placed his back to the stairs, in an effort to remove Officer Zaleski from his line of fire. Officer Zaleski dropped one of his knees to the deck to prevent Mr. Carras from throwing him over the railing.
It was then that Mr. Carras turned and rushed at Officer Lyew with both fists clenched while screaming. At that moment, Officer Lyew fired five times at Mr. Carras until Mr. Carras stopped moving toward him. As Mr. Carras fell to the ground, he looked up at Officer Lyew and said, “Thank you.” After hearing the gunshots, Officer Zaleski fired his department-issued weapon once at Mr. Carras.
Forty seconds had passed between the time Officer Lyew’s Taser stopped and Officer Zaleski called dispatch to report, “Shots fired” at 6:26:14 p.m. Other arriving officers began to render aid to John Carras at the scene, and continued until emergency medical technicians arrived. The two Taser probes were attached to Mr. Carras’ chest. Mr. Carras was transported by ambulance to Hartford Hospital. At Hartford Hospital, lifesaving efforts were made. At 7:03 pm, John Carras was pronounced deceased by Dr. Jonathan Gates.
Paramedics transported Victim One from the scene by ambulance to Hartford Hospital and was treated for injuries. Although Victim One appeared lifeless to the officers at the scene, Victim One survived. However, Mr. Carras had inflicted serious physical injuries to Victim One. The medical diagnosis listed in Victim One’s medical records was as follows: Traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage with loss of consciousness of unspecified duration; cerebral edema; dissection of carotid artery; asphyxiation due to mechanical threat to breathing due to other causes, assault, initial encounter; acidosis; other dysphagia; post-traumatic stress disorder, unspecified; long term (current) use of opiate analgesic; and conjunctival hemorrhage, left eye. The medical records of Victim One corroborate what Officer Lyew, Officer Zaleski and neighbor Macfarlane described as Victim One’s condition.
Officer Lyew and Officer Zaleski were sent to St. Francis Hospital. Officer Zaleski’s medical record shows a final diagnosis of the following: Adult physical abuse, confirmed, initial encounter; unspecified injury of head, initial encounter; unspecified sprain of left thumb, initial encounter; localized swelling, mass and lump, head; and erythematous condition , unspecified. Officer Lyew’s medical records noted the following as a final diagnosis: Contusion of unspecified part of head, initial encounter; nausea; dizziness and giddiness.
Officer Lyew is a black, non-Hispanic male and Officer Zaleski is a white, non-Hispanic male. Neither officer had a substantiated citizen complaint against them. Their training records were supplied for this review and neither were out of compliance with training requirements.
In the autopsy report of Dr. James Gill, Chief Medical Examiner, the cause of death is listed as gunshot wounds of the trunk of Mr. Carras’ body. Dr. Gill noted, having observed upon examination of Mr. Carras’ body, six gunshot wounds including one re-entry wound. There were three penetrating wounds of the chest (one of which shows a bullet re-entered the body into the upper arm); a penetrating wound of the left shoulder; and one penetrating wound in the right flank. Bullets were recovered from Mr. Carras’ body. Dr. Gill also described two conducted electrical weapon (Taser) punctures of the abdomen. The associated toxicology results indicate that John Carras had fentanyl, ethanol, and diphenhydramine in his system at his time of death.
The physical evidence collected from the residence and the autopsy corroborate the officers’ accounts of firing at Mr. Carras from the front and the number of times each stated they had fired their weapons. Forensic ballistic reports show that four bullets recovered by the medical examiner were fired by Officer Lyew and one was fired by Officer Zaleski. An additional bullet fired by Officer Lyew was located in a grill on the deck.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) tests of the officers’ weapons eliminated Mr. Carras’ DNA as a source from the majority of the tests. The tests were inconclusive as to Mr. Carras being a contributor to a mixture from the swabbing from Officer Zaleski’s handle grip of his firearm and the mid area of Officer Lyew’s firearm. Mr. Carras could not be eliminated as a contributor from the mixture from the swabbing of the front end of Officer Lyew’s firearm. These results neither confirm nor refute the officers’ claims that Mr. Carras bumped Officer Lyew’s firearm or tried to get Officer Zaleski’s weapon.
At the time of this incident, East Hartford police had neither body cameras nor dash camera videos. The recently passed Police Accountability legislation should address this need in the future. The availability of such video would have substantially assisted the review of the officers’ actions that night.
In addition to the two police officers involved in the shooting, there were two adult civilians who reported seeing and hearing parts of the events immediately surrounding the fatal altercation, they include: Timothy Macfarlane and Witness #2. The portions of their statements taken the night of the shooting by Eastern District Major Crime Squad are included below:
[After encountering John Carras strangling Victim One on the floor of the kitchen in the home and telling Mr. Carras he was going to call 911…. “I went outside to the driveway and immediately saw an East Hartford police car came flying up Skyline Drive (heading south) towards the Carras’ house, with lights and sirens on I looked at the Officer and pointed to John’s house. The Officer initially pulled up to the front of the house. I motioned him to the garage. He then pulled up to the curb next to the driveway on Lark Street. It was a black male Officer. I said “In the kitchen.” The Officer went to the back of the house and went up the deck stairs. The Officer opened the door and as he was standing in the doorway, he pulled something from his belt. I don’t know if it was a Taser or a gun, but he had it drawn and was standing in the doorway. I then heard the Officer yell, “Get off her! Get off her! Get the fuck off her!” He said this maybe three or four times. I did not see him, but I gathered that John got off her. The Officer had John come out and had John proned on the deck. I don’t remember if John’s arms were outstretched or next to his side. The Officer had a weapon drawn on John. I could not tell if it was a gun or Taser. The Officer ordered me to go around him and go inside and check on the female (name deleted). I went in and check on (name deleted). She was laying on her back. She was wearing multicolored yoga type pants. I don’t remember what she was wearing for a top. It did not appear that she was breathing so I immediately started chest compressions. I did not want to check her neck for a pulse because her neck was really red and bruised. Her face was puffy and her eyes were closed. She was definitely unconscious. I did compressions for about just under a minute and then she gurgled. Her breathing was labored. She was still unresponsive. I asked her what her name was. She did not respond. I told her that [Victim 2 and Victim 3] were okay. She did not respond. While I was doing that, I could hear the cop giving commands to John, I don’t remember what he said. I heard John yell something, I can’t remember exactly what it was. John’s tone was defiance towards the police. John was not going quietly. I then heard struggling and yelling from the Officer and John. At one point, John was wrestling the Officer and then John got slammed into the doorway. John turned towards the Officer as the aggressor. I heard a mix of stuff, but I don’t remember what was said. I heard the Officer was still giving commands. I’m not sure if it was freeze or stop, or something to that effect. John continued to fight with the Officer. I believe the fighting was going on while I was giving compressions. The next thing I knew, the Officer said a sharp command, I do not remember what. Through the window, I saw an Officer, I believe it was the same initial Officer, pointing a weapon at John. I couldn’t see John though. I then heard bam, bam, bam, bam which were four gunshots. I heard four in a row and not hear any other weapons used. I then heard the two Officers talking to each other, talking about some sort of injury to their face. They then started chest compressions on John. At least a third Officer (white male), came in the doorway and asked me, “Who are you?” I told him I am the neighbor and [Victim 2 and Victim 3] came and got me. (Name deleted) was in the same position and her eyes were starting to open. Her breathing was still labored. The Officer told me wait over near the front stairs, on the landing outside the kitchen and I complied. I then saw John laying on the deck, with his eyes open looking up to the sky. He looked dead. I did not notice anything else about him. The third Officer started talking to (name deleted), he was able to get her name. She was responding very weakly. She did not know why she was on the floor. I was then told by that Officer to sit on the front porch and I did. Another Officer (white male) came up and asked me if I was a witness and I told him yes. He asked me some questions about what happened. We did this by his cruiser.”
“On Thursday September 5, 2019 at approximately 5:40 PM, I arrived home from work and went to visit my mother-in-law that lives on 96 Skyline Drive. I observed the white male who lives in the blue house across the street from my mother in law, cutting the grass. It looked like he was just finishing up because he was putting the ramps away and blowing the grass off the sidewalk. I went inside my mother-in-laws house to do laundry and asked my father-in-law to move his vehicle so I could move mine. I drove my vehicle home which is only a few houses away from my mother-in-laws. I went inside my house and was hanging out with my children. My husband was getting ready to go to work and I turned the TV on for my kids. I then heard a little boy outside screaming, ‘SOMEONE HELP, PLEASE HELP.’ I thought it was a group of kids playing around because there is a group of young boys that are always running around the neighborhood playing. I thought I saw a young boy running down Skyline Drive but I was not sure. I saw this through the bedroom window that faces Lark Drive. I did not pay too much attention to it because there are always young kids playing tag and riding bikes in the neighborhood. A couple of minutes later, I heard swearing and a commotion going on outside. I heard someone yell, ‘Don't move get on the ground.’ I glanced through my open front door and saw up on the porch of the blue house across the street and Police Officer with what appeared to be his gun drawn. My son started to come over to me as I was at the front door. I was holding my one year old as well. I closed the door because I did not want my kids to see anything. I then heard someone yell ‘OVER HERE, DON'T FUCKING MOVE, STOP MOVING’ and ‘I WILL SHOOT YOU, STOP MOVING.’ I pushed my kids into the backroom away from the front door. I grabbed by two year old to bring her into the backroom. I glanced again through the front room window and saw another police officer running up the deck stairs. I am not sure if he had his gun drawn or not. I continued to hear police yell at the dad to stop moving. I heard them tell the dad to get back down on the ground and stay down. I joined my kids in the backroom and told my kids to stay down and be quiet. I could still hear yelling and the police yelling ‘DON'T FUCKING MOVE’ over and over again. I saw the dad jump up off the deck onto his feet and started to swing punches wildly at the police officers. I saw the police officers trying to give the guy space and were backing up away from him. The police kept yelling ‘GET DOWN’ and ‘GET BACK ON THE GROUND.’ I then heard a click and thought to myself that the police must have Tased him. I am not sure if the Taser missed because the dad kept moving towards the officers still swinging wildly. I then heard between 3 and 6 gunshots. I did not see the guns go off because of my line of sight. I saw one officers back against the deck rail and the dad that appeared not to have a shirt.
I immediately turned to my kids and reassured them that everything was ok and they needed to stay down. My husband was in the bathroom getting ready for work while this was going on. When he heard the gunshots my husband started to yell asking what was going on. I told my husband that I think the police shot him. I told my husband that the dad was trying to attack the cops by swinging at them. I heard more cop cars speeding to the house and saw their lights. I then saw cops trying to perform CPR on the dad who was laying on the deck face up. I saw the motion of the cop’s upper body going up and down as he was performing CPR on the dad. I saw all this through the front window that faces Lark Drive and the side and deck of the blue house. My son kept asking me what was going on. My husband said that they (the police) are doing CPR and he (the dad) will be ok. My husband had to finish getting ready because he had to go to work. I saw the police doing about 3 rounds of CPR and then stopped. While the police were doing CPR, more keep coming as well as ambulances and fire trucks. I kept trying to reassure my 9 year old son that everything was ok. …”
Although numerous police officers converged upon the scene after the shots were fired, at the time of the shooting only two officers were on the deck. After the shooting, several officers responding to the initial 911 call arrived. After the call of shots fired, additional officers responded to the scene.
Based upon the advice of the officers’ attorney, Stephen McEleney, neither officer who deployed their service weapon on John Carras provided a separate interview to EDMC detectives. Instead, each filled out their respective incident reports signed September 18, 2019 and September 19, 2019. EDMC detectives requested independent interviews and were denied. Finally, additional questions were submitted to their attorney in December of 2019 and the answers supplied by their attorney in March of 2020. Additionally, both officers made comments at the scene in the immediate aftermath to fellow law enforcement officers who arrived after the shooting had concluded, which were later documented in additional reports. Of note is that the officers shared an attorney.
"On 09/05/2019 at approximately 18:17 I was dispatched to 95 Skyline for a domestic dispute. While on route I was given updates from EHPD dispatch on the events that had taken place at the above location. I was informed by dispatch that a female could be heard screaming for help and a male could be heard in the background saying, ‘You’re done, you’re going to die.’ Dispatch also stated they could hear another male on scene. Upon arrival I saw an older white male standing in the middle of the street with two smaller children pointing to the location. The male told me that they were in the kitchen. I then heard one of the children frantically scream, ‘Don’t let him kill (deleted).’ I ran up the steps to the deck at the rear of the home second story. The back door leading to the kitchen was cracked open. I pushed the door open and saw a large shirtless white male on his knees choking a female. The female’s face was purple and her body seemed lifeless. The male was still squeezing the female’s neck. I could see every vein in the male’s forearms, and all of his muscles were flexed as he squeezed. I could hear him breathing heavily, and straining as he continued to squeeze. It was obvious that the male was trying to or had killed the female. I pointed my department issue Glock 17 at the male whose back was towards me and shouted at him to get off of the female. The male looked at me while squeezing the female’s neck and then looked back at her and continued to squeeze. I continued to yell to get off of her and told him I would shoot him if he did not comply. The male then let go of her neck. I heard the sound of her head hit the kitchen floor as he let go of her and stood up with his hands raised above his head facing me. The female was still laying on the floor lifeless. I was still standing within the threshold of the rear kitchen door. I ordered him to turn around and walk back towards me as I stepped out onto the back deck. I then told the male to lay on his stomach with his hands away from his body. The male complied by laying down on the deck. I still had the male covered at gunpoint and could not see the condition of the female laying on the floor in the kitchen. I looked down the steps of the deck and saw the same male I originally encountered when I arrived. I asked him to come up the stairs and check on the condition of the female in the kitchen. The male witness ran up the stairs and went inside to attempt to provide aide to the unresponsive female. Moments later Officer Zaleski ran up the stairs toward me and the male who was still prone. I told Officer Zaleski that I had him covered and he attempted to place the male in handcuffs. As Officer Zaleski leaned down to handcuff the male, he quickly brought his legs underneath him, arms to his side, and performed an athletic movement jumping to his feet, kind of like a burpee. As he did so, the male immediately punched Officer Zaleski several times in the face with an enraged scream. It looked like Officer Zaleski was going to be knocked unconscious from these blows. I was knocked back from where I was standing when the male jumped up. His back had pressed against the muzzle of my firearm, causing it to go out of battery.  I corrected the malfunction, holstered my firearm, and drew my Taser. The male turned to rush me. I struck the male center mass with both probes, but he covered the distance quickly, not allowing the probes to spread, causing no NMI (neuromuscular incapacitation). The male looked at me and shouted, ‘You’re gonna taze me, motherfucker?’ I then stepped toward the male with the Taser in an attempt to drive-stun the male. As I did so, the male threw a punch at my head, which I partially blocked with my forearm. This blow knocked me back into the doorframe of the kitchen. I was momentarily dazed and was unsure why the attack had stopped. When I regained my senses, I saw the male attempting to throw Officer Zaleski over the deck railing to the ground, with one hand on the top of his torso, and another hand lower on his body. I un-holstered my firearm and warned the male that I would shoot him if he did not stop. I stepped to my right, ending up with my back to the stairs, so as to remove Dan from my line of fire, if necessary. As I did this, the male turned and rushed toward me with both fists clenched, screaming, ‘You’re gonna fucking sho…’ Believing, based on everything before that point, that the male was about to cause me at least serious physical injury (by pushing me down the stairs and taking my gun), and also disable me from protecting my partner from serious physical injury or death, I fired about five times until he stopped. When the male fell to the ground, he looked up at me, said, ‘Thank you,’ and went unconscious. The male ended up falling at my feet so I backed up a couple of steps down the stairs, keeping him covered. That’s when Officer Kaplan appeared from nowhere. At this point, I am fuzzy on details, but I remember Kaplan speaking to me. I remember going over to Officer Zaleski, exchanging ‘Are you alright?’ At some point, Officer Mona appeared. I was very upset, having just shot a man. Officer Mona took me to my cruiser. I went to the hospital to get evaluated for my injuries.”
A – Suspects back was to me and one can see the back side of the forearms from the rear. However, I was not directly behind the suspect but at a slight angle to one side which permitted me to see the woman’s face in addition to the forearms of the suspect.
“On 9/5/2019 at approximately 1817 hours, I was dispatched to 95 Skyline Dr. on a domestic dispute. On the way to the call, dispatch was giving us updates. Dispatch said that they could hear screaming from a female voice. Dispatch informed us that there was an open phone line and Dispatch could hear sounds of a struggle. I recall hearing something about, ‘You’re going to die,’ and the female screaming. Officer Lyew #367 arrived before me. I heard him yelling over the radio in an urgent tone. I could hear him yelling that he had a party at gunpoint. I sprinted across the lawn and up the stairs to the back deck. I observed Officer Lyew #367 covering the prone male suspect at gunpoint. The male was face down. Officer Lyew told me that the victim was ‘not conscious and not breathing.’ From this, I presumed that she was dead. I think Officer Lyew said, ‘Let’s cuff him.’ I crouched down and as soon as I touched him to start the cuffing process, the suspect, suddenly, and without warning, leapt to his feet, and in one motion landed his first punch, hard, to my face. I was stunned from the first blow and tried to defend myself. The suspect continued to land several hard, well-placed blows to my head on the left side. The suspect hit me harder than anyone has ever hit me on the job. From the split-second glance I had at his face, the suspect was enraged and maybe on some type of drug. I was beginning to lose consciousness. (Dizzy, on the verge of going down and seeing black) I attempted to grab the suspect, but he was sweaty and shirtless. He was about 6’1”-6’2”, outweighed me and judging from his physical contact with me very strong. I am not sure what happened next, but the next thing I remember is that I felt the suspect pushing me toward the railing and attempting to grab my gun as he did so. It was clear to me the suspect was attempting to push me over the railing of the deck. As I made contact with the deck railing I went to my right knee to avoid going over the railing and also twisted my body to protect my weapon as I felt him make contact with my gun. At this point I was again seeing black. Next I remember I did not feel the suspect near me but had difficulty seeing and don’t know what happened. At some point I heard a Taser, but I can’t place when that happened. I heard multiple gunshots. At that point, I was unsure who was shooting who. I was getting myself on my feet to get back into the fight. As I did so, I pulled out my department-issued Glock 17 pistol and could just make out the suspect, who appeared to be turning toward me and was still an active a threat. We were very close. I fired one round at the suspect (I knew that it was the suspect and not Officer Lyew) and saw him go down. I fired my weapon because I believed that the suspect had just killed the female and was attempting to kill or cause serious physical injury to myself and Officer Lyew. I also thought that if the suspect overpowered one of us he would take one of our guns and use it on us. I called for multiple ambulances. Officer Kaplan #326 arrived. We attempted to give the suspect CPR. Officer Kaplan advised me to sit down as I was staggering around. I remember sitting down on a deck chair. I was walked to an ambulance and taken to a hospital for multiple injuries. My injuries were multiple injuries to the head, injured (bent) left thumb with pain in forearm, and skinned right knee. I was transferred to St. Francis Hospital for further evaluation. They did a CT scan. My head still hurts as of this writing.”
A – The suspect was not “standing.” He pushed me toward the deck and as I made contact with the deck railing, I dropped to one knee in order to avoid being thrown over the deck. Actually, where I was along the railing, I am not sure. I do not know where Officer Lyew was standing.
A – The first conscious memory I have of what I did with my gun after it was discharged was that an officer who had arrived on the scene after the incident was over suggested that I holster my gun, which I did. I was dazed.
Finally, there were officers who responded after the shooting who heard comments about the shooting from the two involved officers. Included are portions of their reports. They are Officer Jason M. Kaplan and Officer Todd M. Mona.
“On 9/5/19 at approximately 1815 hours I responded to 95 Skyline Dr. on a report of a 911 call open line. Initially I was not responding to this incident because 2 other units were. When dispatch stated they could hear a man saying he was going to kill the woman who was screaming for help, I told dispatch I was going to respond as a third unit. While in route, Officer Lyew #367 called out his arrival. He was yelling on the radio as if the situation was not under control. I heard him say he had the suspect at gun point on the back porch. Officer Zaleski #300 called out his arrival. As I was arriving, I heard ‘shots fired’ over the police radio. I went around the back of the house and Lyew was about halfway down the stairs of the back deck. He was facing towards the downed suspect with his gun still drawn. Lyew looked like he was in shock but no obvious injuries. The suspect was lying on his back, on the porch, bloody and unresponsive. Officer Zaleski #300 was on the other side of the porch with his gun still in his hand. Zaleski was wobbling around like he was about to fall over. His face was red and flushed, like he had been assaulted. There was a Taser still on, it had its light on like it was in the ‘fire’ position, on the floor of the deck. There was obvious struggle as there were items moved around and flipped over such as a flower pot. I asked the officers who was shot. The officers told me they shot the suspect. I asked if they were ok. Lyew still seemed dazed and stated something such as ‘he hit me.’ Zaleski stated he was not ok and he did not look ok. I asked if there were any other suspects and they told me no. I asked if the suspect had a weapon on him now and they told me they didn’t think so. I checked the downed suspect for weapons and I didn’t find any. I checked him for a pulse and felt none. I asked ‘Where’s the victim?’ I found her inside, on the kitchen floor, and at first glance I thought she was dead. I called dispatch stating the suspect and victim were unconscious and asked for medics. The female victim was lying on her back and I noticed blood on her left hand. There was a man in the home leaning down next to her who said he was the neighbor. He seemed cooperative and concerned and I just had him move out of the way but stay on scene. I checked the woman for pulse, and she had one. I was trying to wake her up and find out what was wrong. I checked her body for stab or gunshot wounds and did not immediately see or feel any. I noticed on her throat it looked bruised. From her mouth area to her neck, it looked like she was blue from bruising or not breathing. I gently pushed her sternum up and down repeatedly, because I could tell she wasn’t breathing normally. I was trying to help her to breathe normally. A few moments of this went by and she seemed to be coming too slightly, and opened her eyes. I could see Zaleski was still wobbling around unsteady and I told him to sit down. He looked like he was going to pass out, he was unsteady on his feet, and he looked like he had facial trauma. I stayed with the woman and was trying to get information out of her but she was completely non communicative. EHFD medics arrived and I asked that dispatch tell them to come in the front door and work on the victim first which they did. I went outside onto the porch and the suspect still had no pulse. I gave the suspect CPR compressions until I was relieved by EHFD. Officer Meucci #327 arrived and assisted me in clearing the home of any other people. As the medics took the suspect from the home, I closed off the porch with caution tape. As the victim was carried out of the home I asked her if she knew what happened. She asked me ‘Did (deleted) hurt me?’ She appeared confused, scared, dishelved (sic) and I heard her tell the medics she did not know where she was or what day it is.”
“….The undersigned was the fourth unit on scene and upon arrival went to the deck where officers stated they last were. The undersigned observed Ofc. Kaplan #326 with the suspect performing life saving measures on the second story deck (located at the rear of the home) and upon reaching the top of the deck I observed Ofc. Lyew reach for the railing and miss. Lyew was crying and visibly shaken up as I escorted him to his cruiser. Other officers were tending to both the suspect and the female victim inside the home at this time. Sgt. Spragg #242 and Ofc. Meucci #327 arrived seconds behind me. While I seated Lyew in his car, Ofc. Zaleski #300 walked over to us. Lyew stated ‘the Taser didn’t work and the guy would not go down.’ Lyew then stated ‘he punched Dan (Ofc. Zaleski), tried getting his gun and then tried throwing him over the balcony.’ I asked if they were injured and as I looked at Zaleski I could see a swollen lip and swollen left cheek. Zaleski stated ‘the guy grabbed and was trying to get my fucking gun.’ I told Zaleski to refrain from touching his gun and holster in case there was DNA evidence on his weapon. Sgt. Spragg relieved me and began speaking with Lyew and Zaleski. Sgt. Spragg asked me to do several necessary tasks at this time…..”
Section 53a-22c of the Connecticut General Statutes permits a police officer to use deadly physical force upon another person when he reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. Section 53a-3(5) of the Connecticut General Statutes defines “deadly physical force” as physical force that can be reasonably expected to cause death or serious physical injury. Section 53a-54a of the Connecticut General Statutes defines “serious physical injury” as physical injury, which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious disfigurement, serious impairment of health, or serious loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
First, the officer must have believed that the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself or another from the imminent use of deadly physical force. The police officer must have honestly believed that this level of force was necessary in the immediate circumstances. In other words, the subjective portion of the test considers whether the police officer believed the use of deadly physical force was his only reasonable choice under the circumstances.
Second, the officer’s belief that deadly force was necessary must be objectively reasonable. This considers whether a reasonable officer placed in the shoes of the involved officer would have found it necessary to use deadly force under the circumstances.
The test is not whether it was in fact necessary for the officer to use deadly physical force in order to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force. The test is whether the officer believed it was necessary to use deadly physical force and whether that belief was reasonable, based on the facts and circumstances known to the police officer at the time the decision to use deadly force was made. Cf. State v. Silveira, 198 Conn. 454 (1986); State v. Adams, 52 Conn. App. 643 (1999).
The United States Supreme Court has explained this test in a civil rights case: “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable police officer on scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight…. 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.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 at 396-397 (1989). “The appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them.” Scott v. Heinrich, 39 F.3d. 912,915 (9th Cir. 1992).
In less than a minute from the time he finally complied with a police officer’s commands to stop strangling Victim One and positioned himself face down with his hands displayed apart, John Carras became the aggressor with the police officers. He violently resisted arrest. He repeatedly punched Officer Zaleski in the head; put Officer Zaleski in a headlock; and struggled to obtain Officer Zaleski’s weapon. Having successfully punched Officer Zaleski to near unconsciousness, instead of fleeing or surrendering, Mr. Carras continued to fight. Next, he attacked Officer Lyew. Based upon seeing Officer Zaleski nearly unconscious due to Mr. Carras’ attack and believing Mr. Carras would inflict serious physical injury on him and take his weapon, Officer Lyew hit Mr. Carras with Taser probes. Mr. Carras continued to advance on Officer Lyew and punched Officer Lyew in the head while Officer Lyew tried to block the punch. Officer Lyew dropped the Taser. Mr. Carras returned to Officer Zaleski who he tried to throw off the deck. Officer Lyew then shouted to try and stop Mr. Carras and warned Mr. Carras that if he didn’t stop, he would be shot. Mr. Carras then lunged at Officer Lyew, who shot Mr. Carras. Officer Zaleski regained his senses long enough to assess the immediate life-threatening danger to Officer Lyew and himself and then to also fire once at Mr. Carras.
At first glance it seems unusual that two armed police officers could not subdue an unarmed man without the use of deadly force. Decisions made by these officers under duress in the confined area of the deck within seconds are easy to second guess. The officers here responded to what appeared to be a homicide and used voice commands, warnings, physical force, and a Taser to try and contain the enraged suspect who although unarmed, fought as though he had nothing left to lose.
Officer Lyew’s subjective belief was deadly physical force was about to be used against Officer Zaleski and then himself. He believed he was about to suffer serious physical injury at the hands of John Carras and that he would then be disarmed by Mr. Carras. If disarmed by Mr. Carras, Officer Lyew believed he and others were at risk of death. Officer Lyew’s subjectively believed the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself and Officer Zaleski. Officer Lyew’s belief was objectively reasonable in light of all the evidence and therefore legally justified.
Officer Zaleski subjectively believed the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself and Officer Lyew from the imminent use of deadly physical force. Officer Zaleski’s belief was objectively reasonable in light of all of the evidence and therefore legally justified.
I would like to thank the Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crimes Division for their investigation; the East Hartford Police Department and Hartford State’s Attorney’s Office for their cooperation; and the Division of Scientific Services Forensic Laboratory and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for their work. No further action is to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of this incident.
Dated at Danielson, Connecticut this 14 day of October, 2020.
/s/ ANNE F. MAHONEY
WINDHAM JUDICIAL DISTRICT
 Follow this link for a recording of the 911 call. (WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT)
 Drive stun means to hold the Taser directly against the body of the target and deploying the Taser charge, which achieves the same effect as the probes, but requires that the Taser deployer be within arm’s reach of the target.
 Most autoloading pistols, including Officer Lyew’s Glock 17, have an internal passive safety feature called a disconnector. It ensures that the firearm is “in battery” before it can be fired and that a semiautomatic pistol does not fire in full automatic mode. This device disconnects the trigger from the firing mechanism until the firearm is on battery or until the trigger has been released and reset. Consequently, when such a pistol is “out of battery,” it will not fire.