A Wethersfield teen has died after being shot during a traffic stop in the town. State police confirmed the death of 18-year-old Anthony Jose Vega Cruz Monday night.
While Cruz still remained on life support earlier in the day, his family and friends gathered at the Wethersfield police department to demand answers and justice.
“What’s unacceptable in every one of these cases is that the means for de-escalating is not used,” said Bishop John Selders of Moral Monday CT. “We get gunfire for simple traffic violations.”
Wethersfield police officers do not wear body cameras, but Cruz’s family is calling for the release of the dashboard camera footage.
The protest Monday evening outside of the police department was the first time family members were face to face with officers who they say did not call to notify them of the shooting, come to their house or to the hospital.
Wethersfield police chief James Cetran came outside after protesters chanted, “We want the chief! We want the chief!”
Cetran said he thought officers had been sent to the home to notify the family.
Prior to Cetran coming outside, a lieutenant with the department said they could not provide any information about the investigation as it’s now in the hands of the state’s attorney and Connecticut State Police.
According to police, they attempted to make a stop Saturday evening on Silas Deane Highway because the license plates did not match the car Cruz was driving. Cruz tried to avoid being pulled over. Officers claim Cruz hit a police car, then drove toward an officer on foot, who then shot into the car.
A witness’ cell phone video shows Cruz’s girlfriend Stephanie Santiago, crawling from his car while police stand pointing guns at her and the car. Santiago was then handcuffed on her stomach by an officer while two other officers continued to point their guns at the car. An officer called out, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands driver!” while Santiago yells, “No, no—don’t shoot him!”
Jenna Arcata was folding laundry in her home nearby when she heard gunshots and Santiago’s screams.
“I was in my house—if that bullet would’ve richoted somewhere—is that how you guys protect and serve us?” said Arcata, who’s a medical assistant at Hartford Hospital.
Her 8-year-old daughter, who’s half-Black, heard the gunshots too. “Her question to me, the minute I told her to go in her room because I didn’t know what was going on was, ‘Will my daddy or I get shot if we drive in Wethersfield?’ and that, for a mom, that pissed me off.”
At the protest, Arcata told Cruz’s brother Anthony Colon what she saw and heard. He listened intently, then embraced her.
Colon was in disbelief. “I can’t even sleep, this is crazy man,” Colon said. “They didn’t have to shoot him in the head. I got you Chulo.”
Protesters chanted and held signs that said, “Justice for Chulo,” Cruz’s nickname.
The shooting in Wethersfield happened less than a week after an incident in New Haven, where officers from Hamden and Yale shot Stephanie Washington, 22, as her boyfriend Paul Witherspoon III drove. Both Washington and Witherspoon were unarmed. Public safety commissioner James Rovella says the footage and more details about that incident will be released this week.
The Wethersfield investigation remains ongoing. Wethersfield police say the officer involved is now on paid administrative leave.