CSAO: Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New Haven Concerning the Shooting Death of Angel Cajigas, April 21, 2012

Report of the State's Attorney for the Judicial District of New Haven Concerning the Shooting Death of Angel Cajigas, April 21, 2012

Factual Background | Cause of Death and Other FindingsToxicological Findings | Legal Finding | Law Concerning the Use of Deadly Force by a Police Officer | Footnotes and Attachment

The following report concerning the shooting death in Meriden of Angel Luis Cajigas, a.k.a. Raul Rosado, on April 21, 2012, is prepared and submitted by Michael Dearington, State’s Attorney, Judicial District of New Haven, pursuant to Section 51-277a, of the Connecticut General Statutes. The lethal shots were fired by on duty Meriden Police Officer Richard Gasparri, while located on the third floor of 10 Maple Branch Road. The report and conclusions are based upon the investigation conducted by the Western District Major Crime Squad of the Connecticut State Police with the assistance of the Forensic Science Crime Laboratory of the Connecticut State Police, the Office of the State Medical Examiner and the Meriden Police Department.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The deceased Angel Luis Cajigas, a.k.a. Raul Rosado was born in Aquada, Puerto Rico, on October 20, 1975. According to a family member, the deceased’s mother sent her son from Puerto Rico to the continental United States because he often lost behavioral control of himself and spoke nonsensically. At the time of his death he had been in the continental U.S. about three years. He lived at 10 Maple Branch Road in Meriden for about one year. Such structure is a three level apartment house that contains four bedrooms on the first floor, four bedrooms, a common room with a kitchen, a dining room and a bathroom on the second floor and three rooms on the third floor. Initially the deceased lived on the second floor and then moved to the third floor. It is reported that he was a good tenant. He paid his rent on time and was friendly with the other tenants. People familiar with the deceased indicate he suffered from depression and a “mental condition” and was taking medication for such problem. Also, it was reported that the deceased weekly smoked marijuana. It was also reported by an acquaintance that the deceased periodically visited Rushford which is a local substance abuse and mental health clinic.

On Friday, April 20, 2012, second floor tenant Carlos Rodriguez saw the decedent at about 7:30 a.m., in the kitchen on the second floor. He next saw him for the period 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. as they watched TV in the deceased’s third floor bedroom. They also had supper together and smoked in the backyard during such period. At around 6:30 p.m. they apparently went to their respective bedrooms.

At about 8:30 p.m., the decedent went to the second floor and spoke to Mr. Rodriguez. They both then went to the deceased’s bedroom and watched television until 11:00 p.m. at which time Mr. Rodriguez returned to his room.

Around 2:00 a.m., on April 21, 2012, most of residents interviewed in statements to the police reported hearing yelling in Spanish upstairs as well as loud noise similar to things being thrown around. Then they heard someone run downstairs and exit the house. The deceased was around that time seen outside without a shirt and holding rosary beads in his hand. He was standing next to a large stump and was yelling for a period of five to ten minutes. During such time he made reference to God and demons. He then ran back up to the third floor. The deceased then continued throwing things around for approximately one hour. During this period residents yelled to him to be quiet. He was heard to say, among other things “God, I am over here” and “I am the Lord’s coming.” Also, he ran to the second floor where he broke many items in the kitchen area. At that point in time one of the tenants who had heard all of the ongoing activity called 911 at 2:38 a.m.

Meriden police officers within about eight minutes arrived at 10 Maple Branch Road.

First responding police were advised by two women in the front yard that the deceased was running up and down the stairs and in and out of the house. He was making banging noises and yelling about God, the devil and demons and was holding rosary beads.

The exterior ground level entry door which accesses the stairs to the second floor was locked. The fire department was summoned to forcibly open the door. Officers thereupon, while audibly identifying themselves, ascended to the second floor. The locked door was forced open to gain access to that floor.

Then police while continuing to identify themselves ascended the stairs to the third floor landing. The deceased’s bedroom door immediately on the right of the stairs was locked. Police heard both shouting and objects being thrown about behind the door.[1]

During this, at least one tenant stated that he heard police attempt to reason with the decedent. Another tenant heard someone say “calm down” several times.

The door was kicked open by Officer Gasparri. It opened only to a 45 degree angle as it was blocked within by a dresser of drawers.

The decedent was standing inside about three feet from the threshold. He was holding scissors in an icepick type grip at chest level.[2] They were pointed down and he was moving them up and down in a stabbing motion. The four officers present variously described the decedent’s appearance as eyes wide open, staring, emotionless, looking possessed, zombie-like eyes and eyes were empty. Officer Gasparri backed away from the doorway as the deceased moved in his bedroom toward the door. The officer then moved aside to permit Officer Egan to deploy his Taser. Two probes were fired both striking the deceased. In spite of this the decedent continued to move forward and crossed the threshold onto the landing still holding the scissors in a threatening position.

The decedent looked at Officer Gasparri and said “matame” (kill me).[3] The decedent moved forward onto the landing.

The four officers were forced backward towards the south wall on the landing.[4] Officer Egan had, as yet, not had time to draw his service weapon since utilizing his Taser. Unable to retreat further, Officer Gasparri fired two shots at the deceased. The latter moved back slightly and then continued forward. Officer Gasparri fired one more shot causing the officer to fall back to a seated position. The decedent who had fallen to the floor, attempted to raise off the floor. Officer Gasparri fired a fourth and final shot and the deceased slumped back to the floor.

CAUSE OF DEATH AND OTHER FINDINGS

An autopsy was performed on Angel Luis Cajigas a.k.a. Raul Rosado on April 23, 2012, at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, by H. Wayne Carver, M.D., the Chief Medical Examiner. The cause of death was found to be due to multiple gunshots. The report indicates that the deceased was struck by three bullets. The following refers to paragraphs in the autopsy protocol.

Paragraph 1-2: There is a gunshot entry wound on the top of the right hand and exit wound in the palm. The bullet re-entered the body on the right chest close to the nipple. The chest injury indicates the bullet travelled from left to right and upward and exits on the backside.

Paragraph 3: Secondary abrasions near the nipple related to the injury referenced in paragraphs 1-2.

Paragraph 4: There is a gunshot entry wound in the left front chest. The wound travels from front to back and to the left. A large caliber bullet was recovered in the body. The bullet marked by the Medical Examiner as “W-835”.

Paragraph 5: There is a gunshot entry wound in the lateral aspect of the upper left arm. It travels through the arm and enters the chest. It goes through the heart and comes to rest in a subcutaneous space in the area of the right chest. The bullet is marked by the Medical Examiner as “W-836.”

TOXICOLOGICAL FINDINGS

A sample of blood was analyzed by the Toxicological Section of the Office of the Medical Examiner. It found the presence of cocaine (0.03 mg/L) and Benzoylecogonine (1.36 mg/L). The level of cocaine found is considered representative of a small amount. Benzoylecogonine is a metabolite found in cocaine.

LEGAL FINDING

Section 51-277a, of the Connecticut General Statutes, provides that “the Division of Criminal Justice shall cause an investigation to be made whenever a peace officer, in the performance of his duties, uses deadly physical force upon another person and such person dies as a result thereof . . .” Traditionally, the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District where the death occurs, represents the Division of Criminal Justice in such capacity. The State’s Attorney must not only make a finding as to the circumstances of the incident, but also must make “a determination of whether the use of such deadly physical force by the police officer was appropriate (reasonable) under Section 53a-22”, Connecticut General Statues, and a determination as to “any future action to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of the incident.”

Based upon a thorough and professional investigation it is reasonable to find the following facts:

Angel Louis Cajigas, age 37, had a history of mental instability apparently dating back some years. Such reportedly was a factor in his relocation from Puerto Rico to Meriden. The police investigation did not reveal any bizarre conduct by the deceased during that period of time until the morning of April 21, 2012.

Shortly after midnight that day the tenants at the rooming house observed and/or heard the deceased exhibit what can be described as erratic, violent and psychotic conduct. He was running up and down the stairs, breaking, dropping and throwing objects in the second floor common room and in his room. Also he had clearly mentally lost contact with reality. This was evident by repeated reference to God and demons both while inside and outside of the house. Also, indicative of this are his comments such as “God I am over here” and “I am the Lord’s coming.” He was seen by other residents of the house to be holding rosary beads during this period. The conduct continued in spite of tenants yelling for him to be quiet.

After between 1-2 hours of this activity, a tenant called 911. Several police officers arrived. The front door and then the door accessing the second floor were forced open. Four officers ascended to the third floor. It is undisputable that the officers were repeatedly announcing their identity as they ascended to the third floor. They observed the door was closed and locked. It was forced open.

At this point the officers had the following options: to forcibly enter his room, wait in hopes that the deceased would quiet down and voluntarily open the door, or leave the scene.

The officers reasonably and prudently opted to enter the apartment. The second option was not reasonable because of the possibility that the disturbance would continue or the deceased would do harm to himself. The third option was not reasonable for the same reason in addition to the possibility that the deceased could cause harm to other tenants.

When the door was forced open the deceased was observed standing while holding 9” scissors in a threatening position in his hand. He moved toward the officers. The order was given to deploy a stun gun. Such was clearly a responsible and minimum use of force considering the situation. This did not deter the deceased. He continued to move forward with the scissors held in a threatening position.

He was moving toward Officer Gasparri and others in what was a cramped area. Moreover, as he exited his room, he thereby blocked access to the stairs. There was no escape route or ability to retreat for the officers. At that point, Officer Gasparri fired two shots. The deceased stopped and continued forward whereupon a third shot was fired and Officer Gasparri fell to the floor in a seated position. The deceased went to the floor and then started to get up whereupon a fourth and final shot was fired.[5] The deceased fell to the floor and apparently was dead or near death when medical assistance arrived.

Officer Gasparri and other officers could reasonably believe they were confronted with a life threatening situation when the deceased, who appeared to be mentally deranged, entered into the hall with the scissors. Undeniably depending how used scissors can be a deadly weapon. Moreover, there was no way of practically fleeing.

Also, the incident occurred in a matter of seconds. As pointed out in Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 389, 396 (1989) what is reasonable factors into:

The fact that police officers are often forced to make split second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain or rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.

Also, it may be naively and unrealistically said that the situation could be handled in a non-lethal manner.

However, the appropriate inquiry is whether the officers acted reasonably, not whether they had less intrusive alternatives available to them. Scott v. Heinrich, 39 F. 3d 912, 915 (9th Cir. 1992)

Although the loss of life, particularly under these circumstances is tragic, it is concluded based upon Section 53a-22, C.G.S. and applicable case law that Officer Gasparri based upon the circumstances acted reasonably and legally when he shot Angel Luis Cajigas. No further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice.

LAW CONCERNING USE OF DEADLY PHYSICAL FORCE BY A POLICE OFFICER

Section 53a-22, Connecticut General Statutes, captioned “Use of physical forced in making an arrest or preventing escape”, provides, in part, that:

A peace officer . . . is justified in using deadly physical forced upon another person only when he reasonably believes such is necessary to: (1) Defend himself or a third person from the use or imminent use of deadly physical force. . . .

See State v. Smith, 73 Conn. App. 173 (2002)

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. 389, 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. Also, see State v. Silveira, 198 Conn. 454 (1986) and State v. Adams, 52 Conn. App. 643 (1999).

The reasonableness of the inquiry depends only upon the officer’s knowledge of circumstances immediately at the moment that he made the split-second decision to employ deadly force. Maria Salim, Administratrix v. William Proulx, 93 F.3d 86, 92 (2d Cir. 1996). (East Hartford Police Department’s police officer’s fatal shooting of individual).

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).

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

Submitted by:

MICHAEL DEARINGTON
State's Attorney
Judicial District of New Haven

December 4, 2012


FOOTNOTES AND ATTACHMENT


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[1] Tenants in statements to investigators among other things stated that they heard several individuals loudly state “police” as they went up the stairs as well as at the top of the stairs. Also, they corroborated that the decedent was throwing objects not only on the second floor but also the third floor.

[2] The scissors were 9 inches long.

[3] This was corroborated by witness’ statements.

[4] The landing was approximately nine by thirteen feet. However, almost half of the landing was occupied by furniture and the stairwell. Also, an enclosed doorway intruded into the area. In reality the unimpeded area in which the officer met the decedent was less than five by ten feet. Moreover, this area was further confined by the low attic ceiling which sloped on each side to conform to the pitch of the roof.

[5] Four casings were found at the scene. The deceased was struck three times and a bullet hole was found in the wall accounting for the fourth shot although not necessarily in this sequence.



Content Last Modified on 12/7/2012 9:42:58 AM