Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury Concerning the Use of Deadly Force Upon Michael Gregory by an Ansonia Police Officer, Resulting in Mr. Gregory's Death on January 2, 2020
Legal Authority for the Report | Background Information on Michael Gregory and Officer Brendon Nelson | Timeline | Circumstances of the Incident | Medical Information | Investigation | Legal Analysis | Conclusion | Appendix | Footnotes
On January 2, 2020 members of the Ansonia Police Department responded to 81 Myrtle Avenue, a 1st floor apartment in Ansonia, based on a request for assistance by Jane Doe.1 Ms. Doe had left 81 Myrtle Ave. and driven to the Ansonia Police Department. In the course of their response, Ansonia Police Officer Brendon Nelson shot and killed Michael Gregory.
This state’s attorney extends his condolences and sympathy to Mr. Gregory’s family and Ms. Doe, knowing that their grief and loss are the same regardless of the underlying circumstances.
The purpose of the investigation and this report is to determine if the use of deadly physical force by Ansonia Police Officer Brendon Nelson was appropriate under our law. Connecticut General Statute Section (C.G.S. Sec.) 51-277a, as amended by Public Act 19-90, Sec 3. states:
(a)(1) 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 or uses deadly force, as defined in section 53a-3, upon another person, 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.
(2) On and after January 1, 2020, 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 a preliminary status report to be completed that shall include, but need not be limited to, (A) the name of the deceased person, (B) the gender, race, ethnicity and age of the deceased person, (C) the date, time and location of the injury causing such death, (D) the law enforcement agency involved, (E) the status on the toxicology report, if available, and (F) the death certificate, if available. The division shall complete the report and submit a copy of such report not later than five business days after the cause of the death is available in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the judiciary and public safety.
(b) In causing an investigation to be made pursuant to subdivision (1) of subsection (a) of this section, 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 of Criminal Justice 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 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, and shall make such report available to the public on the division's Internet web site not later than forty-eight hours after the copies are provided to the chief executive officer and the commissioner or chief of police.
This state’s attorney was designated to conduct the investigation and did so with the Connecticut State Police (CSP) Western District Major Crime Squad. CSP Detective Rachael Van Ness was assigned as the lead investigator. This state’s attorney, as well as the CSP, went to both 81 Myrtle Ave. and the Ansonia Police Department the night of January 2, 2020.
Pursuant to C.G.S. Sec. 51-277a (a) (2), a preliminary status report3 was issued on January 16, 2020 with police body camera video released by the Connecticut State Police. The video is available online here at this YouTube link.
Both the preliminary status report and the video are to be considered part of this report.4The online videos encompass the time period when the officers approach the home through to the handcuffing of Mr. Gregory after the shooting.
On January 2, 2020, Michael Gregory was 30 years old. He is listed on the November 16, 2019 Uniform Arrest Report as being a white male of Hispanic ethnicity, born in the United States, but his state police record lists him as being black. The autopsy report describes Mr. Gregory as a Hispanic male.
Ansonia Police Officer Brendon Nelson was 29 years old on January 2, 2020, assigned to the Patrol Division. He joined the Ansonia Police Department on December 31, 2012. He is a white male officer with no prior use of force complaints, nor other relevant complaints. He was current with all mandatory trainings, including qualification with his pistol, use of force, TASER recertification, O.C. Spray and Shooting Decisions.
January 2, 2020 – Incident date. Search warrants for 81 and 83 Myrtle Ave. applied for and granted. Scene processed throughout the night going into January 3, 2020.
January 3, 2020 – Autopsy performed at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Bullet recovered.
January 16, 2020 – State’s Attorney issues Preliminary Report
January 24, 2020 – Autopsy report by Chief Medical Examiner completed.
February 27, 2020 – Ansonia police officers provide and sign their previously written statements to the CSP in the company of their attorneys.
March 10, 2020 – Governor Ned Lamont issues Declaration of Public Health and Civil Preparedness Emergencies in response to COVID 19. Multiple Executive orders will follow over the coming months.
March 12, 2020 – Toxicology report produced.
March 18, 2020 – Search warrants applied for and granted for Mr. Gregory’s medical records from Griffin Hospital and Ansonia Rescue Medical Services (Quick Med Claims) for record of ambulance trip of Michael Gregory on January 2, 2020.
April 14, 2020 – Scene processing, material compilation and analysis completed by CSP Western District Major Crime Squad.
May 19, 2020 – Review of Ofc. Nelson’s training records and Ansonia Police Department dispatch and calls completed.
June 2, 2020- Review and analysis of Ansonia Police Department policies and procedures completed.
July 21, 2020 – CSP receive previously requested medical transport information of Mr. Gregory from Quick Med Claims. The search warrant for these materials was submitted on March 18, 2020 and resubmitted on April 28, 2020.
July 29 2020 – Review of Michael Gregory’s medical records completed.
July 30, 2020 – Review and analysis of recovered videos and cell phone completed.
August 17, 2020 – Final 15-page CSP Investigative Summary completed.
August 18, 2020 – State’s Attorney receives investigation materials from CSP.
November 12, 2020 – State’s Attorney submits CSP video link to the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office in preparation of completion of report.
December 2, 2020 – Telephone call with Michael Gregory’s mother. State’s Attorney mails police report to her for her review. Similar call and action with Jane Doe.
December 7, 2020 – State’s Attorney submits Appendix materials to Office of the Chief State’s Attorney in preparation of completion of report. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is consulted regarding Mr. Gregory’s blood alcohol content.
December 9, 2020 – Mr. Gregory’s mother and Jane Doe are spoken with for their input.
December 12, 2020 – Mr. Gregory’s mother and Jane Doe are called and told of this state’s attorney’s findings and that a copy of his report, when available, will be mailed to them.
December 16, 2020 – State’s Attorney submits this report to the Chief State’s Attorney.
Jane Doe reported to the police that Mr. Gregory had been yelling and screaming at her to the point that she called his mother to come pick up the young children who were with them. When Jane Doe dropped her cell phone and could not find it, Mr. Gregory continued to yell at her as he wanted to use the phone.
When Ms. Mitchell arrived, she told Mr. Gregory to calm down, but he continued to yell. Ms. Mitchell took the children out of the house and Jane Doe followed them out. Jane Doe then heard loud banging sounds coming from within the home. When the police later went into the home, it was found in disarray with a hole in a wall. Mr. Gregory’s mother indicated to police that she wished Jane Doe would leave her son for her own safety.
January 2, 2020
At approximately 7:30 p.m. January 2, 2020 Jane Doe drove to the Ansonia Police Department from her home at 81 Myrtle Ave., Apt 1 and asked that the police go to her home. She reported that her boyfriend Michael, who was not supposed to be there, was at her home. He had been drinking and causing a disturbance. He scared her and had taken her cell phone to keep her from calling the police. She asked that they be sent as soon as possible before her boyfriend destroyed everything. Officers were sent to the home.
Ansonia Police Sergeant Christopher Flynn and Officers Brendon Nelson and Wojciech Podgorski went to the residence. They made contact with Michael Gregory first at the back door of the home and then inside where Mr. Gregory had armed himself with a knife. He said that the police were going to have to shoot him. The police told him to drop the knife repeatedly. Mr. Gregory moved from the kitchen to a bedroom. When the police kicked open the bedroom door Mr. Gregory still had the knife in his hand. Ofc. Nelson used a Taser to try to subdue Mr. Gregory. He did not respond to the tasing and came out of the bedroom into the kitchen with the knife coming at the police officers until he was shot by Officer Nelson.
Investigation – The Witnesses
All parties, including the police officers involved and the Ansonia Police Department cooperated with the investigation. Additionally, body camera videos were available for review and reflect the rapid dynamics of violent situations that police face in their everyday work.
The information of the following witnesses was obtained by the CSP, Western District Major Crime Squad in the course of the investigation:
- Neighbors to 81 Myrtle Ave.
Neighbors to 81 Myrtle Ave. were interviewed and reported hearing a gunshot or shots and hearing glass break and seeing police. None were in the 81 Myrtle Ave. apartment at the time of or leading up to the incident.
- Jane Doe
On January 2, 2020 at approximately 7:30 p.m. Jane Doe entered the lobby of the Ansonia Police Department. The lobby camera recorded her. She spoke with a woman behind a glass and asked that a police officer go to her home at 81 Myrtle Ave., Apt. 1. Her boyfriend was there, though he was not supposed to be there. He scared her. He had been drinking that day and was fighting and arguing with her. He had taken her phone so she couldn’t call the police. She was supposed to get her son from her mother’s house. He told her that everything was going to be smashed up when she got home. She asked that the police go to the home “ASAP” before he destroyed everything. Ms. Doe provided Mr. Gregory’s name and her address and that the back door was unlocked. She then sat in the police department lobby.
While in the lobby, Ansonia Officer Paul Smith spoke with Ms. Doe. She told him Mr. Gregory was arguing with her about “stupid s**t” such as whether the earth was flat or not and he was mad at her for not agreeing with him. Mr. Gregory had been drinking whiskey that day. When they arrived home, he started pushing her around, throwing things, striking her in the face, pulling her to the ground and pushing her into the walls. She said Mr. Gregory was not supposed to be at her residence but that she felt bad and one day let him back in. Over the past few days she had been trying to think of a way to get him out. That night Mr. Gregory took her cell phone so she couldn’t call the police. He told her that everything was going to be in pieces when she got home.
Officer Smith confirmed that there was a “no contact” order of protection in place prohibiting Mr. Gregory from being at Ms. Doe’s home. Ms. Doe said she left the back door open. At 7:47 p.m. Officer Smith, while with Ms. Doe, overheard a call on his radio indicating “Shots fired.” Officer Smith then left.
At 7:50 p.m. Jane Doe called her mother with a borrowed cell phone. A friend then joined Ms. Doe in the police lobby. Ms. Doe was aware at this point that shots had been fired at her home. She mentioned to her friend that Mr. Gregory may have been shot by the police. She did not know him to have any weapons other than a hammer she had hidden in her home. Her friend indicated that Mr. Gregory doesn’t want to be alive and wants to be able to blame his death on someone else. Ms. Doe agreed and said Mr. Gregory had tried to kill himself the previous week.
At 9:08 p.m. Ms. Doe is brought into the police department. CSP Detectives Koeppel and Clabby interviewed Jane Doe at 11:11 p.m. She had been at the Ansonia Police Department for several hours and was not yet aware of Mr. Gregory’s death. The detectives apologized for the long wait. Ms. Doe was cooperative with the interview and went over her history with Mr. Gregory. She was advised of Mr. Gregory’s death at 12:40 a.m. on January 3, 2020. Ms. Doe was aware that she was a protected person on an existing protective order.
Ms. Doe said she and Mr. Gregory had been dating for about 5 years. They have one child together. She knew Mr. Gregory had psychological problems because she had seen them firsthand. Ms. Doe said Mr. Gregory had a diagnosis of PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder and manic depression. Though prescribed medication, he rarely took it. She thought he had not taken prescribed medication since June 2019.
Ms. Doe described their fights, arguments and history, including Mr. Gregory’s mental health issue, including past suicide attempts, hospitalizations, and drug and alcohol use. Mr. Gregory would be violent when he drank, though not when he was smoking marijuana. This included violence toward Ms. Doe, including pushing, shoving and striking her head. Sometimes his suicide attempts included threats against her life.
In June 2018, they started living on Myrtle Avenue, Ansonia, though Mr. Gregory would leave for periods of time. He rarely held a job, losing one of them because of a fight. Ms. Doe provided Mr. Gregory with money. He did not have a cell phone as he repeatedly broke the ones given to him.
On the afternoon of January 2nd Ms. Doe and Mr. Gregory went out with a friend of Mr. Gregory’s, ending up back home on Myrtle Ave. They had dropped their son off at his grandmother’s house earlier. Back at Myrtle Ave. Mr. Gregory and the friend started drinking and watching television. The group went out again to a bookstore, Dave & Busters and the mall from 3:00 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m. Ms. Doe dropped the friend off after that and the couple returned home to Myrtle Ave.
Ms. Doe knew Mr. Gregory had gone over his alcohol limit because he was talking loudly about unusual topics. He became mad at her because she was not agreeing with him. She tried to keep him calm, knowing he was on the verge of being aggressive. Mr. Gregory then pushed Ms. Doe against the wall and began choking her. She choked him back. He banged her head against the wall repeatedly, slapping her face and grabbing and squeezing her face so she couldn’t talk. She told him that she did not want him touching her. He told her he could touch her whenever he wanted.
Mr. Gregory was also throwing items around in the kitchen. He then took Ms. Doe’s cell phone and started messaging someone. He then stopped being physically violent, but was still yelling at Ms. Doe. He told her she was never going to see him again, for her to get out of the house and leave. He then went into the bedroom and continued using the cell phone. Ms. Doe took her car keys and left, going to the Ansonia Police Department.
In this state’s attorney’s review of the investigation, Ms. Doe was called and sent the CSP reports and her statement for her input and asked for any comments or additional input. Ms. Doe indicated that she had come into the lobby in distress. She did not know why her telephone conversations with others were made part of the police report. Things that she said at that time were likely the result of the distress and may not have reflected her true feelings. She also mentioned that no one had reached out to her until recently, the last time being in July 2020.
As for the statements Mr. Gregory made to her about not seeing him again, she took them to mean he was going to leave and not that he was going to commit suicide. His last searches on her cell phone were for bus and train schedules. If he were going to try to kill himself, he would try in front of her and not through the police.
After Mr. Gregory’s death she tried to get a copy of the November 2019 police report but was unable to get one from the Ansonia police. This state’s attorney sent her a copy of the report. Regarding the November case, Ms. Doe indicated the police knew of Mr. Gregory’s mental health problems. She did not want him arrested. She said that over time he would go to drug or therapy sessions and that upon occasion she had even brought him to the hospital herself or had a visiting nurse come to the home. Sometimes he would take his medication regularly and then stop, though he had tried to overdose on the medication. Overall, she felt he was struggling to be alive.
Regarding January 2, 2020, Ms. Doe indicated that she was at the Ansonia Police Department for 4 to 5 hours. She or some family member should have been told sooner about Mr. Gregory being shot and dying so someone could have been with him in the hospital. She was in the lobby for a couple of hours and then the interior of the police department. She figured out on her own that Mr. Gregory had been shot from what she was hearing around her. She felt that the police were watching her at the police department and even had someone accompany her when she went to the restroom.
Ms. Doe said she did not want to watch the video of the shooting and has not watched the video. Mr. Gregory was staying with her and had been with her all day. She felt it was clear that he was not in his right state of mind. She felt the police escalated the situation when they did not have to, knowing there was no one else in the house. She did not see any immediate threat that would have called for getting Mr. Gregory out of the house.
As it related to the CSP reports themselves, she noted that she did not speak to them in the narrative form in which the reports were prepared. Rather, she provided the information in response to questions that were asked of her.
- Victoria Mitchell - Michael Gregory’s mother
Victoria Mitchell, Michael Gregory’s mother, was interviewed by the CSP on January 3, 2020. She said that on the evening of January 2, 2020 she received a call from Jane Doe who told her that she and Michael “had gotten into it” and Michael had Jane’s cell phone. She was also told the street was blocked off so she drove up to the police station to see if her son was okay.
Ms. Mitchell indicated that she had not spoken with her son since the last time he was arrested because she was the one that called the police and he was mad at her.
Michael had been in and out of psychiatric care since he was thirteen. He had a diagnosis of Bi-Polar Disorder. He was fine when he smoked “weed” but volatile when he drank. While he had gotten help in the past, he was constantly on and off his medication. Michael had attempted suicide several times in the past three years. He should have been on medication but never complied.
Ms. Mitchell did not approve of Jane Doe’s and Michael’s relationship because he needed to be on his medication. She tried to tell Jane that Michael needed help and until he got it nothing would change. Ms. Mitchell was concerned the he would hurt Jane very badly. She said Jane Doe should have just stayed away from Michael.
Ms. Mitchell was informed of Michael’s death at the police station and provided with information about the investigation and autopsy.
In this state’s attorney’s review of the investigation, Ms. Mitchell was called and sent the CSP report regarding her input to them and asked for any comments or additional input. She said that on the date of the incident she originally went to 81 Myrtle Ave. and was then directed to the Ansonia Police Department where she waited for three hours before she was seen by a CSP detective. She was never spoken to by any Ansonia police officer.
Ms. Mitchell said that when Michael was arrested in November 2019, both she and Ms. Doe had told the police that they wanted Michael to be taken to the hospital because of his mental instability.
Regarding the death of Mr. Gregory, Ms. Mitchell indicated that she had only recently seen the video. She felt that the police escalated the situation by having three officers there. The tasing of Michael had not worked and probably further escalated the situation making Michael act crazier. As there was no one else in the house she did not see how the police could not have done something else for her son. She said that Ms. Doe had told the police that Michael had been drinking. She observed from the video that they were in the house fewer than 2 minutes before her son was shot.6 He had not broken into the home and had been with Ms. Doe all day.
- Law Enforcement Witnesses
A number of police witnesses were interviewed. Their descriptions of the incident are similar. Their complete written statements are included in the appendix.7 The officers’ body worn cameras recorded the incident and their videos of the shooting are made part of this report as previously indicated.
A review of the body camera video of the police officers, their statements and the summary provided by the CSP report disclosed the following:8
Ansonia Police Department officers Sgt. Christopher Flynn, Ofc. Brendon Nelson and Ofc. Wojciech went to 81 Myrtle Ave. When the officers arrived at the back door of the residence, they knocked several times and received no response, though they could see someone was inside moving around. Officer Paul Smith, via radio, indicated that if the officers made contact with Mr. Gregory, they should bring him in. There was a full no contact protective order that was in place.
An officer opened the door back door into the kitchen. Mr. Gregory came out of a bedroom into the kitchen towards the officers, who were still outside. He picked up a knife with a 4.5” blade and told the officers they were going to have to shoot him as he was not coming out. An officer told him that he doesn’t want to do that and repeatedly told him to put the knife down. Mr. Gregory told the officers that they were going to have to shoot him or run up on him. He then slammed the door shut and locked it on the officers.
At the direction of Sgt. Flynn, Officer Podgorski then kicked the locked door open. An officer told Mr. Gregory to step out. Mr. Gregory went back into the bedroom with the knife and shut the door. The officers entered the kitchen and through the bedroom door told Mr. Gregory to open the door. He repeatedly told the police officers through the door that they were going to have to shoot him. Ofc. Nelson prepared to use his non-lethal Taser to subdue Mr. Gregory. Ofc. Podgorski then kicked the door open and it shut. Sgt. Flynn then lightly kicked the door open. Mr. Gregory was standing up just inside the door facing the officers. Ofc. Nelson immediately fired his non-lethal Taser at Mr. Gregory. It had no effect.9
Mr. Gregory then came quickly out of the bedroom with the knife in his hand. He went at the police officers in the direction of Ofc. Podgorski. The officers backed up and Mr. Gregory kept going at them. It was then that Ofc. Nelson fired his pistol three times, hitting Mr. Gregory once. Mr. Gregory fell to the floor; the knife was kicked away from him and he was handcuffed behind his back.
The officers, while still maintaining Mr. Gregory in handcuffs, administered first aid to Mr. Gregory until medical personnel arrived. Medical personnel arrived at 81 Myrtle Ave. at 7:52 p.m. and found Mr. Gregory lying on his right side with his hands cuffed behind his back. Mr. Gregory was transported via ambulance to Griffin Hospital for treatment. He was pronounced dead there at 8:38 p.m.
An autopsy of Mr. Gregory was conducted by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill on January 3, 2020 in the presence of CSP Detective Rachel Van Ness. A bullet was recovered from the left pleural cavity next to the spinal column. This bullet was marked and turned over to Det. Van Ness. Mr. Gregory was determined to have received a gunshot wound to his left arm which penetrated into his left chest, perforating his left lung. The cause of death was a gunshot wound of the trunk with perforation of the lung. The manner of death was homicide, shot by police.
Blood toxicology of Mr. Gregory showed he had blood ethanol of 0.542 g% + 0.32 g% and vitreous ethanol of 0.300 g% ¬+ 0.018 g% in his system.10 By way of a reference point, an adult person is prohibited from operating a non-commercial motor vehicle in Connecticut if their blood alcohol content is .08 g% or greater. So Mr. Gregory’s body alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit for driving a car. His system also contained 1.1 ng/mL of 11-Hydroxy Delta 9 THC, 7 ng/mL Delta-9-THC and 14 ng/mL Delta -9 Carboxy THC.11 The toxicology report was produced on March 12, 2020.
A search warrant was obtained for 81 Myrtle Avenue and executed that evening. As part of the investigation, the CSP recovered numerous items. Only those relevant to this report are mentioned.
Items Recovered from the Scene (81 Myrtle Avenue)
1.Taser wire - copper with attached probe (kitchen) Ex. 1.
3. Black "Zero Exposure" coat with BLS (kitchen) Ex. 3
4. Taser cartridge (expended) with copper wire (kitchen) Ex. 4.
5. .45ACP Federal cartridge casing (expended) (kitchen) Ex. 5
6. Expended .45ACP Federal cartridge casing (kitchen) Ex. 6.
7. Paper bag from kitchen table containing 4 quarters, Mace pepper spray, Albuterol MDI, chewing gum, candy cane, Metro North receipt, debit card (Michael Gregory) Ex. 7.
8. Expended .45ACP Federal cartridge casing (living room) Ex. 8.
9. Knife - the knife Mr. Gregory was holding was a Food Network knife with an approximate blade length of 4.5" (living room) Ex. 9.
10. Taser cartridge door, silver (master bedroom). Ex. 10.
11. Taser cartridge door, silver (master bedroom). Ex. 11.
12. Expended bullet (refrigerator, back) (kitchen). Ex. 12.
13. Black sweatshirt with BLS (was also with Ex. 3 coat) (kitchen). Ex 13.
14. Taser probe recovered from Ex. 3 (coat) (kitchen). Ex. 14.
15. Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge cell phone from inside backpack on bed (master bedroom). Ex. 15.
Items Recovered from the Scene (83 Myrtle Avenue)
- One bullet was recovered from 83 Myrtle Ave, Ex. 17. It was determined that one of Ofc. Nelson’s shots exited 81 Myrtle Ave. and went through a rear porch window of 83 Myrtle Ave. No one was injured by this bullet.
- Bullet recovered from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Ex. 21.
- Ofc. Nelson’s H & K .45ACP pistol, flash light, one 10 round magazine with 7 .45ACP cartridges (Federal), one .45ACP cartridge (Federal) from chamber. Ex. 25.
All of the police officers involved cooperated with photos and consensual recovery of their clothing, equipment and weapons which, other than Ofc. Nelson’s pistol, ammunition, magazine and flashlight, are not listed here.12 The Ansonia Police Department cooperated fully with the investigation.
The applicable law in this case is C.G.S. Sec. 53a-22(c) in effect on January 2, 2020 states in relevant part:
c) 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: (1) defend himself or herself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force; or (2)(A) effect an arrest 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, or (B) prevent the escape from custody of a person whom he or she reasonably believes has committed a felony which involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical injury and if, where feasible under this subsection, he or she has given warning of his or her intent to use deadly physical force.
As it relates to this investigation, only C.G.S. Sec. 53a-22 (c) (1) is applicable.
In State v. Smith, 73 Conn App. 173, 185, cert denied 262 Conn. 923 (2002), the Connecticut Appellate Court stated the standard to be used in determining if an officer’s use of force was justified and reasonable. In making this determination, the Court held that one must look at both the “subjective” and “objective” reasonableness of the officer’s conduct. Using this two-step analysis, one must look first at whether or not, based on the evidence, the officer honestly believed that deadly force was necessary and, if honestly believed, that that belief was objectively reasonable.
Based on the evidence from the body camera videos, photos, reports, witnesses and those involved, including Ofc. Brendon Nelson, I find that:
1. Officer Nelson was at 81 Myrtle Ave., Ansonia with Sgt. Flynn and Ofc. Podgorski regarding a man who was prohibited from being there by a court order. That man was Michael Gregory.
2. The officers had been sent to 81 Myrtle Ave., in response to a complaint by Jane Doe that Mr. Gregory, who was not supposed to be there, had taken her cell phone so she couldn’t call the police.
3.Jane Doe said that Mr. Gregory scared her, had been drinking and said he was going to smash everything in the house.
4. Officer Nelson first encountered Mr. Gregory that evening in the kitchen. Mr. Gregory, in front of the police officers, armed himself with a 4.5” bladed knife. He told the officers, including Ofc. Nelson that they were going to have to shoot him or run up on him.
5.The officers told Mr. Gregory that he didn’t want to do that and repeatedly told him to drop the knife.
6. Mr. Gregory slammed and locked the door, leaving the officers outside. Ofc. Podgorski kicked the door open and the officers entered the apartment.
7. Mr. Gregory had moved to a bedroom with the knife and closed the door.
8. The officers continued to talk to Mr. Gregory and readied themselves to use non-lethal force to subdue Mr. Gregory, who kept repeating that the officers were going to have to shoot him. The non-lethal force was a Taser.
9. Even with Mr. Gregory’s statements, the officers could only speculate as what Mr. Gregory’s intentions were in the bedroom. They did not know if he intended to harm himself or them with the knife.
10. Ofc. Podgorski kicked the bedroom door open and Sgt. Flynn lightly kicked it open again when it closed.
11. Ofc. Nelson fired his Taser at Mr. Gregory who was standing at the doorway with the knife. The Taser had no effect on Mr. Gregory.
12. Mr. Gregory then came at Ofc. Podgorski with the knife. Ofc. Podgorski and the other officers backed away from Mr. Gregory but he kept coming at them.
13. In response to this, Ofc. Nelson fired his pistol at Mr. Gregory quickly 3 times, striking Mr. Gregory with one of the shots.
14. Mr. Gregory died from this gunshot.
Based on those facts, this state’s attorney finds that that Officer Nelson subjectively believed that deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself and the other officers and that belief was objectively reasonable under our law. It is the reasonable belief of the officer at the time he is called to act that governs this evaluation. It was reasonable for Officer Nelson to have believed that had Mr. Gregory reached the officers with his knife he would have seriously injured or killed one of them.
Officer Nelson’s conduct was within the parameters of C.G.S. Sec 53a-22(c) in that he reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force, that being Mr. Gregory’s attack on the officers with a knife. This conduct was also consistent with Ansonia Police Department policies and procedure on the use of deadly force.
As the United States Supreme Court has stated on the Fourth Amendment issue of the use of force by police:
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 ... 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.” (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) -- Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed 2d 443 (1989).
E. OBSERVATIONS/ SUGGESTIONS UNRELATED TO FACTUAL AND LEGAL DETERMINATION
This is at least the third officer-involved shooting investigation this state’s attorney has done in which there has been at least some previously existing issue of the deceased’s mental health.
Victoria Mitchell’s observation as to the little over 2 minute interaction is understandable and yet if the officers had not opened the bedroom door and Mr. Gregory had injured or killed himself with the knife, there would be those saying “What were the officers thinking? They shouldn’t have let a man with a knife stay in a closed room unattended.” Here Ofc. Nelson attempted a non-lethal course of action to safely subdue Mr. Gregory.
In this case Ms. Doe did not mention Mr. Gregory’s mental health issues when she asked the police to get to the house ASAP. Arguably that was evident when Mr. Gregory told the officers that they were going to have to shoot him.
This state’s attorney is reluctant to make observations that do not go to his decision and yet when similar situations keep arising, it calls for an exception. That being said, the following suggestions are made regarding possible changes for the future both internally within police departments and with the legislature:
1. Police 911 operators and police dispatchers should ask the caller if there is any mental health background of which the responding offices should be aware.
2. Police departments should have current protocols and policies regarding the handling of those with mental illness, especially those who are armed.
3. Officers should be held harmless by statute if they make the decision in the field to allow a person to remain alone or to be handled by a social worker and the person does later harm themselves or the social worker. This suggestion to leave the person alone would not apply where a third party’s safety is at risk.
Of note, July Special Session Public Act 20-1, Sec. 18 requires each police department to complete “… an evaluation of the feasibility and potential impact of the use of social workers by the department for the purpose of remotely responding to calls for assistance, responding in person to such calls or accompanying a police officer on calls where the experience and training of a social worker could provide assistance.”
Based on the facts determined to exist in this case, this state’s attorney finds that Ansonia Police Officer Brendon Nelson was justified under C.G.S. Sec. 53a-22(c) in using deadly physical force upon another person. He was justified based upon his reasonable belief that the use of such force was necessary to defend himself and others. As such, the use of deadly force was appropriate under C.G.S. Sec. 51-277a and no further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.
This state’s attorney thanks the Connecticut State Police Western District Major Crime Squad for their thorough investigation and the Ansonia Police Department for their cooperation.
Dated at Danbury, Connecticut this 18th day of December, 2020.
Stephen J. Sedensky III
Judicial District of Danbury
 Jane Doe is a victim of family violence. As such, her identity is protected from disclosure pursuant to C.G.S. Sec. 54-86e for a pending criminal case. While this investigation is not a pending case, it would defeat the purposes of the statute to disclose her identity. This report will not do so. She will be referred to in this report as Jane Doe.
 While July Special Session P.A. 20-1, Sec 33 provides for the creation of an Inspector General to investigate these cases, this matter took place on January 2, 2020, before the effective dates of the Public Act. It was determined that such cases would be handled by the state's attorney originally assigned. To date, no Inspector General has been appointed.
 See Appendix A-1.
 The time stamp on the video footage is 5 hours ahead of the actual time of the recording. The Axon Body Worn cameras record in international time with the letter "Z" attached to reflect Ansonia, Connecticut's time.
 See C.G.S. Sec. 51-277a, Sec. (a) (2)
 A review of the video indicates that it was approximately 2 minutes and 15 seconds from the time the police first opened the back door and spoke with Mr. Gregory and the time he came at them with the knife and was shot.
 Sgt. Christopher Flynn - A-2 through A-4. Officer Brendon Nelson - A-5 through A-8. Officer Wojciech Podgorski - A-9 through A-12.
 The link to this video is provided on Page 2 of this report. Sgt. Flynn's video starts at 17:37 minutes into the recording. Officer Nelson's video starts at 19 seconds into the recording and Officer Podgorski's starts at 8:56 minutes into the recording.
 A Taser is a brand name for a non-lethal weapon that looks like a pistol and fires probes with wires that, if the probes make contact with the person's skin, causes temporary paralysis via electrical shock. In this case, it is believed that the Taser was ineffective because of the jacket Mr. Gregory was wearing.
 See C.G.S. Sec. 14-227 a(a)
 THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol which is the main active ingredient of marijuana.
 With the passage of July Special Session P.A. 20-1, Sec. 22, investigators will now have to seek search warrants for this evidence regardless of police cooperation. This will delay the investigation unnecessarily and could in some instances preclude it being obtained at all.