Hamden Officer Charged In New Haven Shooting | Connecticut Public Radio

Hamden Officer Charged In New Haven Shooting

Oct 21, 2019

A Hamden police officer who fired shots at an unarmed couple in New Haven in April was arrested Monday and released on bond. 

Devin Eaton, 29, has been charged with assault and reckless endangerment in the April 16 shooting incident.

Eaton and Yale University officer Terrance Pollock, who has not been charged, were investigating a report of an attempted armed robbery when they spotted the couple in a red Honda Civic in New Haven.

Authorities say shots were fired by both officers, striking 22-year-old Stephanie Washington, a passenger in the car, and missing the driver, 21-year-old Paul Witherspoon. The warrant states the driver of the car sustained minor injuries that were not from a gunshot.

No weapons were found at the scene and the couple was not charged as a result of the incident. The shooting sparked several days of protest in the city of New Haven.

The charges against Eaton are the result of an investigation conducted by New Haven state's attorney Patrick Griffin.

Michael Dolan, the attorney for the driver Paul Witherspoon, told Connecticut Public Radio that he's not surprised by the charges against Eaton, but he is disappointed that similar charges weren't brought against the Yale officer, Terrance Pollack.

"When you have a loaded handgun that's used to kill people, the level of caution has to be great," he said. "And we feel that both police officers violated reasonable standards of care."

Dolan said that he will still look to hold both officers responsible for the incident.

This file photo shows activists led by community organizer Kerry Ellington rallying in April 2019, to protest the shooting of an unarmed New Haven woman.
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public Radio

Hamden's acting police chief John Cappiello issued a statement after the arrest.

"The prosecutor’s decision clears the way for the Ethics and Integrity Unit (commonly known as internal affairs) of the Hamden Police Department to complete its investigation of Officer Eaton’s conduct," he said in the statement. "At the State’s Attorney’s request the formal interview of Office Eaton by internal affairs was postponed during the State Police investigation and the prosecutor’s deliberations."

Later Monday, Hamden Mayor Curt Leng told reporters that he respects the state’s attorney’s decision to prosecute Eaton. He said the police department's investigation will employ a consultant who has extensive experience in officer-involved shootings.

“Chief Cappiello will make recommendations to the police commission who is empowered to render any discipline up to and including termination after the completion of a formal hearing process." said Leng. "I’m confident that they will discharge their duties in good faith. We are all deeply concerned by what we have seen, and we should be."

Pastor Scott Lewis of Christ Chapel New Testament Church in New Haven said during a press conference that the community needs more assurances beyond the arrest to make sure such an incident doesn't happen again.

"Holding the police department accountable to make sure that they're doing whatever they can do to engage with the community they're policing," Lewis said. "Thank God that there was no life lost, but we can't say that around the country."

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp issued a statement on the arrest saying she commends the state's attorney for the comprehensive investigation and thorough report.

"I’m pleased the report underscores the authority of the Yale Police Department to operate citywide, and reinforces the need to fine-tune training and policies about crossing jurisdictional boundaries, incident de-escalation, and the use of body-worn and police vehicle recording equipment,” Harp said. “I look forward to the results of ongoing analysis, evaluation, and recommendations in these vital aspects of public safety in New Haven.”

Eaton, who is now on unpaid leave from the force, was released on $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in New Haven Superior Court on Oct. 28.

This story has been updated.