Angry protests follow police shooting of unarmed woman

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The shooting of an unarmed woman by two Connecticut police officers who opened fire on a car that she was riding in has prompted angry protests over the incident, which the mayor of New Haven called "police activity gone horribly wrong."

Stephanie Washington, 22, was was shot in the face early Tuesday morning in New Haven when an officer from the neighboring town of Hamden and another from Yale University unleashed a barrage of gunfire on the red Honda Civic that her boyfriend was driving, authorities said.

Washington was rushed to a hospital and is expected to survive, officials said. Her boyfriend, Paul Witherspoon III, was not injured in the incident.

"I thought I was already dead because he pointed [a gun] right at me," Witherspoon told ABC affiliate station WTNH-TV in New Haven. "My girlfriend was just yelling like, 'They shot me! They shot me! They shot!'"

The officers involved in the shooting have been identified by authorities as Devin Eaton, a member of the Hamden Police Department, and Terrance Pollock of the Yale University Police Department. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Connecticut State Police and the Connecticut State's Attorney's Office.

On Wednesday, protesters stormed the Hamden Police Department demanding Eaton be fired and for officials to release bodycam video of the shooting. Other protests broke out Wednesday at the scene of the shooting in New Haven and outside the home of Yale President Peter Salovey.

"Our relief that the young woman who was shot did not suffer life-threatening injuries must not signal closure, but rather an opening: now is the time for all of us - city residents, their elected leaders, community organizers, and the Yale community - to come together," Salovey said in a statement.

Yale officials released Pollock's name on Thursday.

The shooting unfolded at about 4:20 a.m. on Tuesday after Hamden police responded to a call of an attempted armed robbery at a gas station in Hamden, according to state police.

A car matching the description of the one leaving the scene of the attempted robbery was spotted on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven, state police said. This car turned out to be the Civic that Washington and Witherspoon were in. Eaton with help from Pollock blocked the car and the driver exited the vehicle, State Trooper Josue Dorelus told reporters on Tuesday.

Both Eaton, who drove up in a police SUV, and Pollock then opened fire.

Video from a nearby surveillance camera, obtained by WTNH-TV shows Eaton jumping out of his SUV and firing into the driver's side door before running down the street. The video does not show Pollack, who was firing in front of the car, authorities said.

The video also appears to contradict initial statements from state police that Witherspoon exited the car as soon as the officers stopped him.

Pollock, a 16-year police veteran, was grazed by a bullet, but it was unclear if his wound was caused by a ricocheted bullet from his own firearm or from one fired by Eaton.

State police said neither Washington nor her boyfriend were armed and no weapons were found in the car.

During a news conference on Wednesday, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said she was "troubled, concerned and, quite frankly, outraged" by the shooting.

"This incident betrays police activity gone horribly wrong along the Hamden-New Haven line and now Stephanie [Washington], as well as many residents, her family, her friends, must live with the consequences and resulting uncertainty of what was by every definition an unacceptable response," Harp said.

She said New Haven's Chief Administrative Officer Sean Matteson and Interim Police Chief Otoniel Reyes would immediately begin working with neighboring law enforcement agencies to create a memorandum of understanding designed to "help guard against anything like this happening again."

"Second, it will help to address the justifiable and now amplified anger, frustration and distrust many residents have regarding the police," Harp said.

Hamden Mayor Curt Leng added, "We need to ensure that justice is done and this demands that we allow the state to complete this investigation then take action."

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