CSAO: Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk Concerning the Death of Hua Jian Ye

Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk Concerning the Death of Hua Jian Ye on October 24, 2014, in the City of Norwalk

Preface | Circumstances of the Incident | Witness Accounts | Report of the Chief Medical Examiner | Forensic Evidence | Law Regarding the Use of Deadly Force | Conclusion

PREFACE

On Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Trooper Marc Omara exercised deadly force which resulted in the death of Hua Jian Ye on I-95 in the City of Norwalk.

Section 51-277a of the General Statutes provides that, whenever a peace officer in the performance of his or her duties, uses deadly 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 determine whether the use of deadly physical force was appropriate under Section 53a-22 of the General Statutes. In accordance with these statutes, the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk caused such an investigation to be conducted by the Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad (CDMCS), in conjunction with the Forensic Science Laboratory of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Office of the State Medical Examiner.

The investigation is concluded and this report represents my findings and legal conclusions. It also should be noted that in the spring of 2015 the Division of Criminal Justice revised its policies to direct that any investigation into the use of force resulting in death be conducted by a State’s Attorney or other prosecutor from a Judicial District other the district where the incident occurred. This incident and the subsequent investigation on which this report is based occurred prior to the policy revision. I wish to extend my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Hua Jian Ye on the loss of their loved one.

CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE INCIDENT

On Tuesday October 14, 2014, Hua Jian Ye boarded a Dahlia tour bus in the Chinatown section of New York City, bound for the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Ye was traveling alone and was not known to the driver or any of the other 19 (nineteen) passengers.  While on I-95 North in Connecticut, Ye began walking up and down the aisle and appeared to be using the light of his cell phone to look at other passengers. When the passengers expressed their displeasure with Ye’s behavior, he suddenly produced a box cutter type knife. For reasons not determined, Ye then began slashing passenger Meici Chan in the face with the box cutter. Meici Cahn began yelling which alerted the other passengers to the assault. Another passenger, Randy Chan, then attempted to stop the assault by grabbing Ye and pulling him toward the front of the bus. Several of the bus passengers began calling 911 from their cell phones to report the incident. Dispatchers at State Police Troop G and Norwalk Police were receiving calls from the passengers. Due to all of the callers only speaking Chinese, dispatchers were not able to obtain specific details of the assault or the exact location. The driver then pulled the bus into a construction zone on I-95 North at Exit 14, where Trooper Marc Omara (#747) was stationed with his state police cruiser  to provide traffic control in the work zone. Another passenger, Nikorn Chinakul, exited the bus and approached the cruiser to advise Trooper Omara of the assault. Nikorn Chinakul was speaking English but was very excited and having trouble communicating to the Trooper exactly what was happening on the bus. When Trooper Omara realized that a man on the bus was assaulting a woman with a knife he advised Troop G via the cruiser’s radio. Troop G acknowledged and indicated that they had indeed been receiving calls but hadn’t identified the location. Other Troopers and Norwalk Police Officers were then dispatched to the area. As Trooper Omara approached the bus driver’s window, the driver told him to get out his weapon because the man on the bus had a knife. The driver then opened the door and the suspect Ye and passenger Randy Chan fell off the bus and onto the roadway. Ye was attempting to assault Randy Chan with the box cutter and ignored commands repeatedly given by Trooper Omara to “Stop and drop the knife”. Trooper Omara, standing approximately 10 feet away in front of the bus, drew his duty weapon and then discharged the weapon as Ye continued to ignore his commands and was lunging toward Randy Chan with the box cutter. One of the first shots inadvertently struck Randy Chan in the right leg and another possibly struck suspect Ye. Randy Chan fell to the ground and rolled toward the bus, seeking a safe location away from suspect Ye who had fallen to the ground in the center lane of the highway. Trooper Omara continued to yell commands for suspect Ye to drop the knife, however Ye stood up and lunged toward him with the box cutter extended. Trooper Omara discharged his weapon again several more times, striking Ye and causing him to again fall to the ground. Suspect Ye still had the box cutter in his hand and was attempting to get up again as Trooper Omara continued to yell commands for him to drop the knife. Trooper Omara had fired all 9 rounds of ammunition from his service weapon and reloaded with another magazine of 8. As Ye again got to his feet, still armed with the box cutter, Trooper Omara discharged his weapon two more times, again striking Ye and knocking him to the ground. Ye was then on the ground and began to scrape at his own eyes with the box cutter. Trooper John Acampora and Norwalk Police Officer Ramon Tejada then arrived to assist. Troopers Omara and Acampora had their weapons drawn and provided cover for Officer Tejada who was attempting to restrain Ye with handcuffs. Ye resisted Officer Tejada, refusing to release the knife. Officer Tejada was eventually able to pull the box cutter from Ye’s hand, roll him onto his chest and handcuff him. 

Trooper Omara discharged his firearm a total of 11 (eleven) times to defend himself and Randy Chan from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. Victim Randy Chan was struck once in the leg and suspect Ye was struck 6 (six) times in the right arm and torso areas. Toxicology reports indicated no presence of narcotics, but an elevated blood alcohol level of .014% for suspect Ye. No evidence of any pre-existing medical or psychological conditions or diagnosis were discovered for suspect Ye. Suspect Ye is believed to only have spoken Chinese and investigators were unable to establish whether or not he actually understood the verbal commands given to him by Trooper Omara.

Hua Jian Ye failed to comply with Trooper Omara’s lawful commands and was attempting to assault Randy Chan with a box cutter. In his written statement Trooper Omara stated when the two men first came out of the bus that “he felt in a matter of seconds, the aggression and level of violence displayed by the smaller man (suspect Ye) as he pursued the other man made it clear to him that he was going to kill him (the larger man).” Trooper Omara stated further that he first discharged his firearm in the direction of suspect Ye because “As the smaller man swung the knife with his left hand, Trooper Omara believed the smaller man was close enough to pose a serious risk of death or bodily harm to himself or the larger man”. After the first sequence of shots, Trooper Omara again felt he needed to discharge his weapon again several times because “Before he could even reassess the situation, the man quickly got to his feet and turned towards him with the knife still in his left hand. The man started towards him and began to close what he estimated to be 12-15 feet between them. He again yelled as loud as he could and ordered the man to drop the knife, however the man still ignored him.” Trooper Omara felt the need to continue to utilize his duty weapon on the successive instances because as he continuously was reassessing the situation which he estimated took approximately 15 fifteen seconds, he felt that “At no time did the man de-escalate his violently, aggressive behavior”.

WITNESS ACCOUNTS

Ethan Pickett was traveling on I-95 North, in the vicinity behind the Dahlia tour bus and witnessed portions of the shooting incident. Pickett is a Special Agent for the United States Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General. He indicated that he is a certified firearms and tactics instructor with the agency and felt that his training and experience influenced his reaction and approach to the scene. Pickett provided a written statement to Trooper DeSoto (#1280) on October 15, 2014 at approximately 0040 hours and provided CDMCS investigators with a scene “walk through” to further explain the details of what he witnessed. In summary Pickett indicated that:

He was driving on I-95 North in traffic when he heard several loud pops which sounded like gun shots. There were about four or five vehicles ahead of him and then a tour bus pulled over in the left lane which was closed for construction. He saw there was a struggle or confrontation going on near the front of the bus and so he pulled into the closed left lane behind the bus and got out of his vehicle. He was armed with a handgun, however only took his agency badge off his belt for identification. As he was getting out of his vehicle and approaching the bus he saw a man on the ground in the center of the roadway who was trying to get up and was looking toward something/someone in front of the bus, out of Pickett’s view.  He heard several more pops but couldn’t tell who was firing the shots at that time. As he walked toward the bus, he saw that there was a uniformed Trooper standing in front of the bus, ahead of the open bus door. The Trooper had his weapon drawn and pointed at the man on the ground in the center lane next to the bus. Pickett was about twelve feet behind and four feet off to the right of the rear of the bus when the man got up from the ground and lunged toward the Trooper. Pickett saw the Trooper fire two shots at the lunging man. The man fell back to the ground, in the center lane. Pickett then saw that there was another man lying on the ground in the left lane next to the bus, bleeding profusely from his leg. The Trooper kept pointing his gun at the man in the center lane and another officer (later identified as a Norwalk Officer) arrived. Pickett never saw the Trooper point the weapon at the man bleeding by the bus, only the man who had lunged at him and had been shot. Picket stated he couldn’t see if the man on the ground had a weapon, but the two officers were yelling to the man repeatedly to drop the knife. The man appeared to still be struggling and trying to get up. At that time, the Norwalk Officer grabbed the man, kicked a knife out of his hand and was trying to keep him on the ground to put handcuffs on him. Pickett placed his foot on the man’s legs to help keep him down and the Norwalk Officer was then able to get the man handcuffed. Once the man was handcuffed several other officers arrived and Pickett stepped back.    

Randy Chan was the passenger on the bus who physically attempted to restrain suspect Ye during the box cutter assault on the female passenger. Chan fell from the bus onto I-95 while struggling with Ye and then suffered a gunshot wound to the right leg area. Chan was transported to Norwalk Hospital where he gave statements to investigators, however declined to sign a written statement. In summary Randy Chan indicated that:

When suspect Ye began assaulting the woman on the bus with the box cutter, Chan grabbed the man and pushed him to the front of the bus trying to restrain him. Chan stated that after the bus stopped and the Trooper approached, he heard the driver tell the Trooper that the man had a knife. The driver opened the door and he and the suspect fell out of the bus and onto the highway. He was still struggling briefly with the suspect and then he heard a gunshot and realized that he had been shot in the leg. He was then able to roll away from the suspect and then the suspect lunged at him, trying to stab him with the knife. It was then that he heard the Trooper tell the man two or three times to drop the knife. He saw that the suspect still had the knife and kept trying to get up and the Trooper, who was about ten feet away kept shooting the man as he tried to get up. Chan stated that when he first fell out of the bus and was struggling with the suspect, he didn’t remember hearing the Trooper give any commands before the first gunshot which he thought hit him in the leg.

Nikorn Chinakul was the passenger on the bus who approached Trooper Omara’s cruiser and advised him of the suspect with the knife. In summary Nikorn Chinakul indicated that:

           

When suspect Ye began assaulting the woman on the bus with the box cutter, another passenger, who Chinakul thought was a VIP, based on how he was treated, tried to stop the assault. The driver pulled over in a construction zone and stopped behind a Police car. The driver pointed toward the Police car and then opened the door and Chinakul got out and ran up to the Trooper. He knocked on the Trooper’s window and told him about the man on the bus with the knife. Chinakul doesn’t speak Chinese. He was speaking English to the Trooper, but stated that he was so excited that he could only get out a few words while informing the Trooper. As he and the Trooper were then outside the front of the bus, the driver opened the door and the VIP and the suspect with the knife fell out onto the highway. Chinakul was standing in front of the bus near the Trooper who was about eight to ten feet away from the suspect with the knife. He heard the Trooper yell to the suspect “Many times” to “Stop, drop the knife”. The suspect didn’t drop the knife and the Trooper shot him and the man fell down. The Trooper kept yelling for the man to sop and drop the knife, but the man kept trying to get up and then the Trooper shot him again.

REPORT OF THE CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Gill conducted a post-mortem examination of  Hua Jian Ye.  Dr. Gill documented multiple gunshot wounds to the torso and extremities, as well as superficial cuts over both eyelids. Dr. Gill identified the locations and direction of the gunshot wounds.  There were gunshot wounds to the left chest, left flank, right subclavian region, and right epigastric region.  There were two gunshot wounds that traveled through the right arm and then re-entered the right chest area.  There was a gunshot wound to the right forearm which exited the right wrist and possibly re-entered at one of the other abovementioned gunshot wounds.  There appear to have been a total of six projectiles that struck Ye.

A blood sample drawn from Mr. Ye during the autopsy was analyzed and the toxicology report  identified a Blood Alcohol Concentration level of .014%.

The cause of death was listed by Dr. Gill as gunshot wound of trunk and extremities. The manner of death was listed as homicide (shot by police).

FORENSIC EVIDENCE

The Central District Major Crime Squad examined the scene and recovered sixty evidence items.  These items included Trooper Omara’s duty weapon, eleven expended shell casings from the roadway and six projectiles, two recovered from the scene and four were recovered from Mr. Ye, (three at Norwalk Hospital and one from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner).  The duty weapon, shell casings and recovered projectiles were submitted to the forensic laboratory for examination. 

LAW REGARDING THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE

Section 53a-22(c) of the Connecticut General Statutes permits a police officer to use deadly physical force upon another person when he reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. The test to determine reasonableness is both subjective and objective. First, the officer must believe that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or another from the imminent use of deadly physical force. Second, the belief must be objectively reasonable. State v. Smith , 73 Conn. App. 173, cert. denied, 262 Conn. 923 (2002). The burden is on the state to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of self-defense as set forth in section 53a-22. State v. Smith , supra, 73 Conn. App. at 185-86.

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 such belief was objectively reasonable, based on the facts and circumstances known to the police officer at the time the decision to use deadly force was made. See 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 officer on scene rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight …The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance of the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions - 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 387 (1989). “The appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them.” Scott v. Henrich , 39 F.3d. 912, 915 (9th Cir. 1992).

In examining the number of shots necessary to end the public safety risk, the United States Supreme Court has explained: “It stands to reason that, if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.” Plumhoff v. Rickard , 134 S.Ct. 2012 at 2022 (2014).

CONCLUSION

The accounts given by all of the officers involved regarding the events surrounding the shooting of Hua Jian Ye are corroborated by the seized evidence, the reports of the officers at the scene, the civilian witness statements, the radio transmissions, the forensic analysis, and the postmortem examination findings.

On Tuesday October 14, 2014, Hua Jian Ye boarded a Dahlia tour bus in the Chinatown section of New York City, bound for the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Ye was traveling alone and was not known to the driver or any of the other 19 (nineteen) passengers.  While on I-95 North in Connecticut, Ye began walking up and down the aisle and appeared to be using the light of his cell phone to look at other passengers. When the passengers expressed their displeasure with Ye’s behavior, he suddenly produced a box cutter type knife. For reasons not determined, Ye then began slashing passenger Meici Chan in the face with the box cutter. Meici Cahn began yelling which alerted the other passengers to the assault. Another passenger, Randy Chan, then attempted to stop the assault by grabbing Ye and pulling him toward the front of the bus. Several of the bus passengers began calling 911 from their cell phones to report the incident. Dispatchers at State Police Troop G and Norwalk Police were receiving calls from the passengers. Due to all of the callers only speaking Chinese, dispatchers were not able to obtain specific details of the assault or the exact location. The driver then pulled the bus into a construction zone on I-95 North at Exit 14, where Trooper Marc Omara (#747) was located. Another passenger, Nikorn Chinakul, exited the bus and approached the cruiser to advise Trooper Omara of the assault. Nikorn Chinakul was speaking English but was very excited and having trouble communicating to the Trooper exactly what was happening on the bus. When Trooper Omara realized that a man on the bus was assaulting a woman with a knife he advised Troop G via the cruiser’s radio. Troop G acknowledged and indicated that they had indeed been receiving calls but hadn’t identified the location. Other Troopers and Norwalk Police Officers were then dispatched to the area. As Trooper Omara approached the bus driver’s window, the driver told him to get out his weapon because the man on the bus had a knife. The driver then opened the door and the suspect Ye and passenger Randy Chan fell off the bus and onto the roadway. Ye was attempting to assault Randy Chan with the box cutter and ignored commands repeatedly given by Trooper Omara to “Stop and drop the knife”. Trooper Omara, standing approximately 10 feet away in front of the bus, drew his duty weapon and then discharged the weapon as Ye continued to ignore his commands and was lunging toward Randy Chan with the box cutter. One of the first shots inadvertently struck Randy Chan in the right leg and another possibly struck suspect Ye. Randy Chan fell to the ground and rolled toward the bus, seeking a safe location away from suspect Ye who had fallen to the ground in the center lane of the highway. Trooper Omara continued to yell commands for suspect Ye to drop the knife, however Ye stood up and lunged toward him with the box cutter extended. Trooper Omara discharged his weapon again several more times, striking Ye and causing him to again fall to the ground. Suspect Ye still had the box cutter in his hand and was attempting to get up again as Trooper Omara continued to yell commands for him to drop the knife. Trooper Omara had fired all 9 rounds of ammunition from his service weapon and reloaded with another magazine of 8. As Ye again got to his feet, still armed with the box cutter, Trooper Omara discharged his weapon two more times, again striking Ye and knocking him to the ground. Ye was then on the ground and began to scrape at his own eyes with the box cutter. Trooper John Acampora and Norwalk Police Officer Ramon Tejada then arrived to assist. Troopers Omara and Acampora had their weapons drawn and provided cover for Officer Tejada who was attempting to restrain Ye with handcuffs. Ye resisted Officer Tejada, refusing to release the knife. Officer Tejada was eventually able to pull the box cutter from Ye’s hand, roll him onto his chest and handcuff him.

It is the conclusion of this State’s Attorney that Trooper Marc Omara believed the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend himself and the civilians present  from the imminent use of deadly physical force. It is further concluded that his belief was objectively reasonable. Therefore, I have determined that Trooper Marc Omara was justified in his use of deadly physical force upon Hua Jian Ye, and that such force was appropriate under section 53a-22(c) of the General Statutes. Accordingly, no further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.

Respectfully submitted,

RICHARD J. COLANGELO, JR.

State’s Attorney
Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk



Content Last Modified on 5/17/2017 11:28:14 AM