CSAO: Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford Concerning the Police Involved Fatal Shooting of Agim Beqiraj on May 23, 2010, in the Town of Seymour.

Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of Ansonia-Milford Concerning the Police Involved Fatal Shooting of Agim Beqiraj on May 23, 2010, in the Town of Seymour.

Factual Background | Applicable Law | Conclusion

The Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad, acting at the request of the Ansonia-Milford State’s Attorney’s Office investigated the police involved fatal shooting of Agim Beqiraj in the Town of Seymour on May 23, 2010.  Connecticut General Statutes §51-277a(a) requires the State's Attorney to conduct an investigation, utilizing appropriate law enforcement agencies, whenever a peace officer, in the performance of his duties, uses deadly physical force upon another person and such person dies as a result. Section 51-277a(c) of the General Statutes requires the State's Attorney to determine, upon completion of the investigation, the circumstances of the incident and whether deadly force was appropriate under Section 53a-22 of the General Statutes. The State Police investigation has been reviewed by State’s Attorney Kevin D. Lawlor.  As part of the review, State’s Attorney Lawlor has reviewed all police reports generated, all witness statements taken, examined all photos and videotapes of the scene and examined the autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  The following are the findings and legal conclusions of State’s Attorney Lawlor regarding the incident.

The State Police investigation into the death of Agim Beqiraj revealed the following:

Factual Background

According to Naugatuck Police Department and Seymour Police Department records, on Sunday, May 23, 2010, at approximately 10:02 a.m., the Naugatuck Police Department received a call from Agim Beqiraj who indicated he wanted to kill himself.  Beqiraj advised Naugatuck Dispatch that he was in a parking lot inside his black Mitsubishi SUV with South Carolina license plates and that he was armed with a gun.  The Naugatuck Police Department then contacted the surrounding area police departments and advised them of the situation in an attempt to locate Mr. Beqiraj.

At approximately 12:28 p.m., the Naugatuck Police Department was able to trace Mr. Beqiraj’s cell phone and determined that his cell phone signal had hit a cell tower located at 664 Rimmon Road, Beacon Falls, Connecticut.  Officer Pugliese of the Naugatuck Police Department, who was speaking with Mr. Beqiraj on the phone at this time, was able to determine that Mr. Beqiraj was parked in the parking lot of the Double R Mobil Gas Station located at 1 Oxford Road on the Oxford/Seymour town line. Naugatuck Police also learned that Mr. Beqiraj was despondent over his divorce from his wife and that there was an active protective order against Mr. Beqiraj prohibiting any contact with her. The Seymour Police Department was advised and dispatched officers to the scene.

At 12:49, Seymour Police Officer John Cronin was the first officer to locate Mr. Beqiraj in the Mobil parking lot.  The black Mitsubishi was parked in the side lot of the convenience store.  The vehicle was backed into the parking space with the rear of the vehicle against a retaining wall adjacent to Mountain Road.  Officer Cronin positioned his vehicle to block in the Mitsubishi and called dispatch informing them of this information and requesting back up.

Shortly thereafter, Seymour Officer Dedrick Wilcox arrived and also positioned his vehicle to the front, driver’s side of the Mitsubishi.  Both Officers indicated that at this time they could observe a sole occupant with blood on his face slumped down in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

Once on scene, Officer Wilcox drew his service weapon and began to approach the vehicle while yelling to the occupant to show his hands and exit the vehicle.  Officer Wilcox the observed the occupant of the vehicle place a shiny silver object in his mouth and he heard a loud pop.  Officer Wilcox observed blood coming from the mouth of the occupant.  At this time, Officer Wilcox sought cover behind his patrol vehicle while ordering the occupant to show his hands.

The next Officer to arrive on the scene was Sergeant Stephen M. Prajer at 12:51.  He arrived as Officer Wilcox sought cover behind his vehicle.  Sergeant Prajer parked his vehicle on Mountain Road and took up position approximately 20 feet from the passenger side window of the Mitsubishi.  Sergeant Prajer related that he could see the occupant with a weapon resting on his lap.  All three officers repeatedly commanded the occupant of the Mitsubishi to drop the weapon.  The occupant then raised the weapon to his face a second time and discharged another round into his chin area and lowered the gun into his lap again.  The occupant remained conscious and made eye contact with the officers despite two gunshot wounds to the head.

The occupant of the vehicle raised the weapon a third time and looked in the direction of Officer Wilcox.  All three officers again demanded he drop the weapon.  The occupant began to cant the weapon in the direction of Officer Wilcox then rolled his head to the right and made eye contact with Sergeant Prajer.  Sergeant Prajer stated that the occupant “looked directly at him with a look of rage and his eyes open wide.”  The occupant pointed the weapon at Sergeant Prajer who believed that the occupant was going to shoot him.  Sergeant Prajer then fired one shot from his Sig Sauer, 45 caliber service pistol striking the occupant in the right chest area.  The occupant then dropped the weapon and the officers approached the vehicle, removed a loaded North American Arms, 5 shot, .22 caliber revolver and secured the occupant. 

Officers then retrieved a first aid kit and rendered aid to the occupant, identified at the time as Agim Beqiraj, age 53, with a last known address in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Seymour Police provided emergency life saving aid to Beqiraj until Oxford Ambulance personnel arrived on scene.  They transported Beqiraj to Bridgeport Hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

It was determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that Beqiraj sustained three (3) self inflicted gunshot wounds to the head; the third gunshot wound was to the face near the left side of the upper lip. This self inflicted gunshot wound is believed to have taken place prior to the arrival of Seymour Police Officers.  Mr. Beqiraj also sustained a gunshot wound to the torso which perforated his lung and heart.

Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson’s opinion states: “It is my opinion that Agim Beqiraj, a 53 year-old white man, died as a result of gunshot wounds of the torso and head.  The decedent was reportedly involved in a standoff with police, at which time he shot himself and was subsequently shot by a police officer.  Two calibers of bullets are noted.  The presence of soot at entrance wounds with smaller caliber bullets is consistent with self inflicted injury.”  Dr. Gilson lists the cause of death as gunshot wounds of torso and head and Manner of Death as Homicide (Shot self and shot by another).

Applicable Law

Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-22 authorizes the use of deadly physical force by a police officer under certain circumstances. Section 53a-22(c) provides, in pertinent part:

(c) A peace officer or authorized official of the department of correction is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person for the purposes specified in subsection (b) of this section only when he reasonably believes such to be necessary to: (1) Defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force;

The United States Supreme Court has sanctioned the use of fatal force in such self defense situation and found such use of force to be reasonable. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1 (1985).

The United States Supreme Court has indicated:

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. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989).

Also, in Graham, the Court stated that:

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. Supra, p. 396-397.

Also;

(T)he "reasonableness" inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. Supra, p. 397.

Thus, the subjective intention of an officer whether "good" or "evil" is not the measure in analyzing the reasonableness of an officer’s conduct.

Also, an officer’s actions may be found reasonable even where "officers of reasonable competence would disagree" on the issue. Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).

As to the rules prescribed in Graham v. Connor:

Numerous courts have interpreted Graham as requiring substantial deference to the on-scene judgments made by police officers. Russo v. U.S., 37 F.Supp. 2d 450, 455 (E.D. Va. 1999).

In assessing the propriety of an officer’s use of fatal force:

(M)ost courts limit the inquiry to the information known by the officer at the time of the shooting . . . and . . . to limit relevant evidence to police officer’s actions "immediately prior to the shooting." Russo v. U.S. at p.455.

Also, it has been held that an inquiry into an officer’s actions is limited to whether the officer acted reasonably and not to whether the officer had a less intrusive or invasive alternative available.

Requiring officers to find and choose the least intrusive alternative would require them to exercise superhuman judgment. In the heed of battle with lives potentially in the balance, an officer would not be able to rely on training and common sense to decide what would best accomplish his mission. Instead, he would need to ascertain the least intrusive alternative (an inherently subjective determination) and choose that option and that option only. Imposing such a requirement would inevitably induce tentativeness by officers, and thus deter police from protecting the public and themselves. It would also entangle the courts in endless second-guessing of police decisions made under stress and subject to the exigencies of the moment. Scott v. Henrich, 34 F.3d. 1498 (9th Cir. 1994).

In the best of all worlds, because a human life is so precious, an officer ideally, when confronted with the threat of deadly force, should take the time to dispassionately analyze the parameters of the threat and measure his or her response to that a minimum amount of force is utilized and a minimum amount of injury is inflicted.

However, police officers are trained that in reality, the ideal situation rarely, if ever, exists.

(S)tatistics reveal that about 90 percent of shooting incidents take place within a three-second time frame. Within this time frame, a police officer takes appropriate steps to stop the threat and rarely, if ever, engages in a decision making process about his intent or the degree of injury that will be inflicted. The realistic motivation is primarily reactive and designed to stop the threat or the aggressive behavior.

Attempts to shoot to wound or to injure are unrealistic and because of high-miss rates and poor stopping effectiveness can prove dangerous for police officers and others. International Association of Chiefs of Police National Law Enforcement Policy Center., "Use of Force", Concepts and Issue Paper, February 1, 1989. P. 4.

Accordingly, our law only requires that a police officer must only react reasonably under the quickly evolving circumstances.

Conclusion

The Connecticut State Police made the following conclusions which State’s Attorney Lawlor also endorses:

  1. On May 23, 2010 at 10:02 a.m., the Naugatuck Police received a call from Agim Beqiraj.  Beqiraj stated that he was in a black Mitsubishi SUV with South Carolina plates and indicated that he wanted to kill himself.  Beqiraj also stated that he was in possession of a gun and located in a parking lot, but would not disclose his exact location when asked.
  2. The Verizon Wireless cellular telephone company advised the Naugatuck Police Department that at 11:44 a.m., Beqiraj’s cell phone signal pinged the eastside of a cell tower located at 1 Deerfield Lane in Ansonia, Connecticut.
  3. The Verizon Wireless cellular telephone company advised the Naugatuck Police Department that at 12:28 p.m., Beqiraj’s cell phone signal pinged a cell tower located at 664 Rimmon Road in Beacon Falls, Connecticut.
  4. At 12:43 p.m., Beqiraj spoke with Naugatuck Police Officer Pugliese on an unblocked line which was not recorded.  Beqiraj asked Officer Pugliese if he would like to pick him up.  Officer Pugliese responded “Yes.”  Beqiraj then disclosed his location at the Double R Mobil Station.
  5. At approximately 12:49 p.m., Seymour Officers Cronin and Wilcox arrive in the Parking lot of the Double R Mobile Station at 1 Oxford Road, Seymour, Connecticut.  They observed the suspect vehicle backed against the retaining wall facing in a northeast direction in the side lot.  Seymour officers observed Beqiraj reclined in the operator’s seat with a small caliber handgun in his possession.  Officer Cronin observed blood coming from Beqiraj’s nose and that he was still moving.
  6. At approximately 12:51 p.m., Sergeant Stephen Prajer arrives on scene, parking his vehicle alongside the edge of Mountain Road, facing southwest and overlooking the scene.  Sergeant Prajer takes a position on the retention wall, overlooking the passenger side and interior of the suspect vehicle.
  7. Beqiraj ignores numerous commands by Seymour Police Officers to show his hands and then places a small caliber handgun in the direction of this mouth, discharging the weapon on two separate occasions.  Beqiraj sustained two intraoral gunshot wounds but is unsuccessful in killing himself.
  8. Beqiraj then raised him arm towards Sergeant Prajer with the shiny silver object pointed a Sergeant Prajer.  At this point it is evident to Sergeant Prajer that Beqiraj was going to shoot him and that his life was in danger.  Sergeant Prajer discharged his department issued firearm in the direction of Beqiraj, striking him in the upper right arm and chest.  There was no further movement from Beqiraj after being struck.  Seymour Police Officers then cleared the car, retrieving a loaded handgun from Beqiraj’s lap and then they rendered medical treatment until medical personnel arrived on scene.  Beqiraj was transported to Bridgeport Hospital where he was pronounced deceased.
  9. It was determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner that Beqiraj sustained three (3) self inflicted gunshot wounds to the head; the third gunshot would was to the face at the left side of the upper lip. This self inflicted gunshot wound is believed to have taken place prior to the arrival of Seymour Police Officers. 
  10. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner lists the cause of death as gunshot wounds of torso and head and manner of death as homicide (Shot self and shot by another).  The toxicology report revealed no presence of alcohol or opiates in Beqiraj’s system.

Based upon the preceding facts and circumstances as found by the Connecticut State Police and the applicable law found in Connecticut General Statutes §53a-22(c) State’s Attorney Lawlor finds that the use of deadly force by Sergeant Stephen Prajer while attempting to take Agim Beqiraj into police custody during the late morning and early afternoon hours of Sunday, May 23, 2010 was appropriate under Section 53a-22 of the General Statutes. Accordingly, no further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.

Finally, State’s Attorney Lawlor thanks the Connecticut State Police for their thorough investigation of this matter, Chief Metzler and the officers of the Seymour Police Department as well as Chief Edson and the officers of the Naugatuck Police Department for their initial investigation and cooperation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  This Office also wishes to thank all these agencies for working together to assure that the investigation was concluded in a timely, thorough and complete manner.



Content Last Modified on 7/15/2014 2:44:44 PM