CSAO: Report on the Death of Lashano Gilbert

Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of New London Concerning the In-Custody Death of Lashano Gilbert on October 4, 2014, in the City of New London

Facts | Applicable Law | Conclusion

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.

This State's Attorney is aware that Section 51-277a was repealed by the General Assembly and was replaced by Public Act 15-4, June Special Session, §§4 and 5 and subsequently signed into law by the Governor. The substituted language takes effect on October 1, 2015. The relevant language of Public Act 15-4 requires the Division of Criminal Justice to conduct an investigation when physical force is used by a peace officer and requires a prosecutorial official from a judicial district other than the judicial district in which the incident occurred be designated to conduct the investigation. The policy of this State's Attorney has been to conduct an investigation whenever a death occurs in police custody. Prior to concluding my investigation into the death of Mr. Gilbert, I consulted with Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane and it was agreed that I continue to conduct the investigation as the death occurred prior to the repeal of Section 51-277a.

On October 3, 2014 at approximately 7:06 p.m., Lashano Gilbert, who was born on March 2, 1983, was arrested by New London Police Department for an attempted carjacking and an assault. Gilbert was subdued by the use of a Taser after he actively resisted his arrest. Gilbert was transported to the Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London for treatment and subsequently was released. He was transported to the New London Police Department for processing. Once placed into the booking cell, Mr. Gilbert removed his pants and began to roll them into the shape of a rope. Upon observing this, New London police officers opened the door to the booking cell, at which time Gilbert proceeded to attack and assault the officers. Several officers responded to the booking room to assist. Oleoresin Capsicum spray and a Taser were used to bring Mr. Gilbert under control. New London Fire Department personnel responded to the police station to transport Gilbert back to the hospital. Gilbert became unresponsive in the ambulance while enroute to the hospital. Mr. Gilbert was pronounced deceased on October 4,2014 at 3:23 a.m. by Dr. Monte at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

Supervisory Inspector Philip Fazzino was notified of the incident and inspectors immediately responded. The Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad (EDMCS) conducted the investigation in conjunction with inspectors from this office. Detective Jeffrey Payette submitted the completed investigatory casebook which this writer has adopted and incorporated into his report.

It is the conclusion of the undersigned that the New London police officers involved in the struggle with Gilbert in the booking area did not use deadly physical force and that their use of physical force was appropriate.

FACTS

On Thursday October 2, 2014, Lashano Gilbert left Toronto, Canada at 6: 15 a.m. on Delta Airlines Flight DL6182 arriving at Kennedy Airport in New York at 8:00 a.m., according to a ticket stub found in his belongings. His mother, Donna Smith, who resides in the Bahamas, told investigators that Gilbert was planning to travel to the Bahamas on October 2, 2014. Gilbert never arrived and did not call. Smith said it was unusual for Gilbert not to call. A handwritten note in Gilbert's personal papers indicated his original intention may have been to take Delta Flight 459 to Nassau, Bahamas, leaving at 1:42 p.m. on October 2,2014 and an "Excessive Baggage Ticket" was purchased for the flight. Located with Gilbert's personal papers was a purchase receipt for an Amtrak train ticket from New York to New London issued on October 2,2014 at 12:18 p.m.

Kemi Apanisile, a friend of Gilbert's who resided in Canada, said he spoke to Gilbert in Toronto on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 by telephone. Apanisile stated Mr. Gilbert mentioned being "stressed out," but sounded normal. On October 2, 2014 Apanisile received a telephone call from Gilbert who told him that he was in New York City. Gilbert began quoting scriptures and said that it was dark in New York and that it was judgment day. Gilbert told Apanisile that, "God is raining revenge on the non-believers by giving them HIV and Ebola." Apanisile said Gilbert told him he was going to get a train from JFK Airport to go to Connecticut to see his aunt to get the "witchcraft off of him." Apanisile said he tried calling Gilbert back but was unable to make contact with him.

According to Gilbert's aunt, Bertha Fletcher, Donna Smith's sister, Gilbert arrived in New London on the evening of October 2,2014. Fletcher said she was not expecting a visit from Gilbert and that he just "showed up" at her residence on Garfield Avenue. She was not sure how Gilbert had travelled from Canada to New London. Fletcher told investigators that Gilbert was a doctor and had studied medicine in Cuba. Gilbert told her he had come to her home to "clear his head." She said she observed Gilbert acting weird, praying a lot, and speaking in tongues. Gilbert slept at her residence on October 2, 2014. She saw him only briefly on the morning of October 3, 2014.

John Clark, a neighbor of Bertha Fletcher's, stated that on the night of October 2, 2014, he was outside on his property when he observed a black male, tall, thin build with a slight beard in Fletcher's yard. Clark had not seen the man before. The man was waving his arms in the air and speaking in some different language. Clark said this went on for an hour before he asked the man to stop. The man then went out to the corner of Garfield Avenue and Elm Street and did the same thing. The nex1 morning, October 3, 2014, Clark called the police to report the man's activities. He said that incident was the first and last time he saw the man.

On October 3, 2014, New London police officers were dispatched to the area of 143 Garfield Avenue after Shannon McGill called the police department to report a suspicious person. Officers Joshua Bergeson, Green, and Northup responded at approximately 6:32 a.m. Officer Bergeson reported that they made contact with a male, who identified himself as Lashano Gilbert. During their interaction with Gilbert, Bergeson found Gilbert cooperative and able to answer simple questions about the date and his location. Bergeson said Gilbert told him that people may get the wrong idea about him because he will pray in strange tongues. Bergeson reported that there was no criminal complaint against Gilbert, and that Gilbert did not appear to be a danger to himself or to others, so he was released.

Gilbert's movements and activities on Thursday, October 3, 2014 subsequent to his interaction with Officer Bergeson until the time of his arrest are unknown. Investigators attempted to contact and meet with Fletcher and Smith on numerous occasions to establish a timeline for Gilbert's activities on October 3, 2014. However, Gilbert's family retained an attorney and would no longer discuss the investigation with investigators.

On October 3, 2014 at approximately 7:00 p.m., Abraham Israel was on his front porch at the corner of Williams Street and Broad Street in New London when he saw a tall slender black man walk into the intersection. He watched as the black male jumped head first into the driver side window of a white vehicle stopped at the light on Williams Street at the intersection of Broad Street. Israel observed the woman accelerate her car down Williams Street with the man's legs hanging out the window. Israel lost sight of the car and called 911.

On October 3, 2014 at 7:06 p.m., a second 911 call came into the New London Police Department Dispatch Center. The caller could be heard, in hysterics, yelling that a "crazy dude" just jumped into her car on Williams Street. She said the male who dove on her was talking "gibberish." An unknown male could be heard on the call, speaking rapidly in an unknown language. She stated the male was on top of her in the driver's seat and was all over her pretending to stab her.

In a written statement obtained from Officer Kurt Lavimoniere of the New London Police Department, he stated, that on October 3, 2014 at about 7:06 p.m., he responded to the area of Williams Street and Waller Street regarding an assault in a vehicle. Officer Lavimoniere stated that when he arrived he observed a female in the driver's seat of a white sedan signaling to him for assistance. As he stopped his patrol vehicle, he observed a black male, later identified as Lashano Gilbert, inside the vehicle on top of the female actively assaulting her by striking her in the head and upper body with his hands. Before Officer Lavimoniere could issue any commands, Gilbert exited the vehicle and ran directly at Officer Lavimoniere yelling incoherently and flailing his arms. Fearing Gilbert intended to assault him, Officer Lavimoniere drew and fired his Taser striking Gilbert in the chest. Gilbert was about 10 feet away and the single five second discharge from the Taser had an immediate effect on Gilbert causing him to fall to the ground. The Taser report, downloaded from Officer Lavimoniere's Taser at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy, indicated that on October 3,2014, at approximately 7:08 p.m., Officer Lavimoniere's Taser was used one time for five seconds. Officer Lavimoniere stated that while on the ground, Gilbert was uncooperative and refused to remove his hands from under his body. Officer Lavimoniere placed his knee on Gilbert's right shoulder to prevent him from assaulting him. As additional officers arrived to assist, Gilbert was placed in handcuffs.

While waiting for the ambulance to arrive to transport Gilbert to the hospital, Officer Lavimoniere left his Taser activated to use its audio-video function to record the interaction with Gilbert. The video shows Gilbert lying on the pavement. with the Taser wire leading from the Taser to a portion of Gilbert's body out of range of the camera. The audio is discernible at times and indiscernible at other times. Gilbert can be heard explaining that he was walking by a cemetery when a ghost jumped out of the cemetery and went into his stomach. He became terrified and jumped into the woman's car to try to get help. Gilbert said he was trying to get help because the ghost was inside him and he couldn't breathe. The ghost told Gilbert that he was going to take his life if he did not bring him to a cemetery in the Bahamas. Gilbert told police that he had arrived in Connecticut two days earlier to visit his aunt, and that he lived in Toronto. At one point, Gilbert appeared as if he was speaking to his aunt Gilbert said he had never heard voices before and had no prior mental health issues.

In a written statement provided by Sgt. Lawrence Keating, he stated that on October 3, 2014, he was working as the street sergeant from 3:00 p.m. to 11 :00 p.m. At approximately 7:06 p.m., he heard a radio dispatch that a male had jumped into someone's vehicle and was speaking irrationally. Sgt. Keating stated that as he arrived at the scene, he observed Officer Lavimoniere holding his Taser, standing next to a black male lying on the ground. Sgt. Keating observed other officers attempting to place handcuffs on the male as he continued to move around. He noticed that the male was speaking rapidly, randomly and out of sequence to the questions he was being asked. Sgt. Keating stated that when the ambulance arrived, he informed the ambulance personnel that due to Gilbert's behavior and physical condition he suspected the male may have been under the influence of an intoxicant Gilbert resisted efforts to place him on a stretcher by moving his body and kicking his legs. Sgt. Keating assigned Officer Ryan Griffin to ride in the ambulance with Gilbert. Sgt. Keating followed the ambulance to the hospital and observed through the rear door ambulance personnel and Officer Griffin struggling with the male.

In the written statement provided by Officer Ryan Griffin, he stated that on October 3,2014 at approximately 7:06 p.m., he responded to the area of Williams Street by Waller Street for a report of a woman being assaulted in her vehicle. Officer Griffin stated that when he arrived, the suspect, identified as Lashano Gilbert, was lying on his stomach in the middle of the roadway with Officer Lavimoniere standing by him with his Taser drawn. Officer Nichols was kneeling beside Gilbert securing Gilbert's hands with handcuffs. Officer Griffin assisted in handcuffing Gilbert and an ambulance was requested. When the ambulance arrived Officer Griffin was directed to ride in the ambulance with Gilbert to the hospital. During the transport, Officer Griffin observed Gilbert thrashing about in what appeared to be an attempt to break free from his restraints. Officer Griffin said he tried to verbally calm Gilbert down but was unable to and had to physically hold Gilbert on the gurney so that ambulance personnel could perform their duties. As Griffin attempted to restrain Gilbert, Gilbert attempted to bite him and the ambulance personnel. A cloth face mask was placed on Gilbert to prevent him from biting. When they arrived at the hospital, it took several police officers, security officers and other medical personnel to safely restrain Gilbert on the hospital gurney.

According to the New London Fire Department Incident report, fire personnel were dispatched to the scene on Williams Street for a patient with a psychological problem arriving at 7:13 p.m. Gilbert was observed handcuffed and lying on the pavement yelling unrecognizable words. When Gilbert was loaded into the ambulance, he became combative and thrashed about on the stretcher. Numerous fire department personnel and a police officer struggled to subdue Gilbert during transport. The report indicated that Gilbert was restrained during the entire transport and that upon arriving at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital at 7:22 p.m. he received four point restraints. Fire department personnel had to utilize bolt cutters to remove Gilbert's handcuffs which were broken during Gilbert's struggle.

In a written statement provided by Officer Patricia Tidd, she stated that on October 3,2014, at approximately 7:49 p.m., she was dispatched to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital to guard a male prisoner who had assaulted a woman in a vehicle. Upon her arrival at the hospital, Tidd observed numerous nurses, security officers and police officers around Gilbert. Gilbert was yelling in a foreign language and flailing his body in an attempt to get off the gurney. Officer Tidd stated that when the phlebotomist attempted to take Gilbert's blood he would not cooperate. Gilbert told Officer Tidd he was in New London visiting his aunt. Gilbert told her that before he had jumped into the woman's car, he was feeling scared and thought someone was out to get him. Officer Tidd said Gilbert believed his aunt had put a curse on him and did not like him. Gilbert became very apologetic and said he did not know what came over him. Eventually Gilbert calmed down and Officer Tidd was able to loosen his restraints.

On December 1, 2014, a search and seizure warrant was issued for the medical records of Lashano Gilbert, at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital. The family of Gilbert had refused to provide written consent to obtain the records necessitating the warrant. The records indicated that Gilbert was first registered to the Emergency Room on October 3, 2014 at 7:39 p.m. for an altered mental status and combative behavior. Once examined, it was noted that Gilbert's blood pressure and respirations were normal, and that his tachycardia pulse improved during his stay. The records indicated that Gilbert initially was not responsive to questions and alternated between periods of calmness and yelling, screaming and thrashing. The Taser barbs on his left chest and on his belt were removed without incident. The records further noted that Gilbert later apologized and reported that his behavior was because his aunt in New London, "became angry with him and placed a spell on him." Gilbert became stable, calm and cooperative and was discharged to the custody of the police at 9:53 p.m. No blood work was performed on Gilbert due to his discharge. Investigators' were unable obtain Gilbert's past medical and mental health history due to the family's lack of consent.

Officer Tidd stated that Gilbert was medically cleared and released into her custody at 9:53 p.m. to be transported back to the police department. As they were exiting the hospital, Gilbert asked Officer Tidd to cover his head because it was against his religion to have his hair exposed and that his aunt would be able to pull his hair out if it was not covered. During the booking process, Gilbert repeated his concerns about his aunt pulling his hair out and tried to cover his head with his hospital gown. Gilbert was otherwise cooperative throughout the booking process. He told Officer Tidd he did not like small spaces and did not think he could stay in the cell he was placed in. Officer Tidd stated they made the decision to place him in the holding tank which was a much larger secure room to make him more comfortable.

In a written statement Officer Melissa Schafranski-Broadbent, stated that on October 3, 2014, she was assigned to work in the booking room. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent stated that at approximately 10:04 p.m., Officer Tidd brought in a prisoner, identified as Lashano Gilbert. During processing, Officer Schafranski-Broadbent stated Gilbert told her he was living with his aunt at 105 Garfield Ave. in New London. Gilbert said he was from the Bahamas, but now lived in Canada. Gilbert advised her he was HIV positive. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent asked Gilbert if he had any injuries and Gilbert showed her a small abrasion on his shoulder, which she placed a Band-Aid on. During the processing, Gilbert requested his scarf numerous times because he said his aunt was touching his head.

In a written statement provided by Sgt. Scott Johnson, he stated, that on October 3, 2014, he began his midnight shift at 11 :00 p.m. He was advised by Sgt. Kristy Christina that Lashano Gilbert, a prisoner, had been arrested for assaulting a woman and that he had been Tasered during his arrest. Sgt. Johnson was made aware of Gilbert's irrational and bizarre behavior and that Gilbert had been taken to the hospital and was medically cleared.

At approximately 11 :30 p.m., Officer Lavimoniere spoke with Gilbert in the holding tank, Gilbert was dressed in a short sleeve hospital gown, hospital pants and a pair of socks. Gilbert told Officer Lavimoniere that he was cold. He was given his pair of jeans which he had been wearing earlier. At one point, Gilbert was removed from the holding tank to complete some of his booking paperwork. Gilbert was then placed in a smaller cell at which point he became agitated and wished to be returned to the larger holding tank. Shortly after being returned to the holding tank, Gilbert began chanting in an unknown language and rocking back and forth on the bench. At approximately 2:25 a.m., Officer Lavimoniere observed Gilbert standing on the half wall next to the toilet in the holding tank. Officer Lavimoniere entered the holding tank and instructed Gilbert to get down off the wall. Gilbert appeared agitated, but complied. Gilbert asked to call an attorney or a family member, but because of his increased agitation, Officer Lavimoniere told Gilbert that he would have to wait to make the call.

After his interaction with Gilbert, Officer Lavimoniere advised Sgt. Johnson of Gilbert's increased agitation. As a result, Officer Lavimoniere and Sgt. Johnson began to more closely monitor the surveillance video of the holding cell. Officer Lavimoniere observed Gilbert twisting his jeans. Officer Lavimoniere became concerned because it is common for people to tightly twist clothing to make it easier to tie to stationary objects in an attempt to harm themselves. Fearing that Gilbert may be attempting to harm himself, Officer Lavimoniere and Sgt. Johnson immediately proceeded to the booking area to take away the jeans, Officer Schafranski-Broadbent followed to assist.

At approximately 2:37 p.m., Sgt. Johnson and Officer Lavimoniere opened the door to the holding cell to speak to Gilbert because he had been attempting to attach the twisted jeans to the vent. Gilbert appeared more agitated and said he was using the pants to cover the vent because the police were putting poison into the air in an attempt to kill him. Gilbert demanded a phone call, but was advised that he would not be permitted to use the phone. Officer Lavimoniere stated at this point his primary concern was to get Gilbert back to the hospital for an additional evaluation. Officer Lavimoniere told Gilbert to sit on the bench. Gilbert followed Officer Lavimoniere and Sgt. Johnson as they began to back out of the cell. Officer Lavimoniere attempted to put his hand on Gilbert's chest in order to push him back into the cell. Gilbert paused and then lunged at Officer Lavimoniere in an attempt to take his Taser, which was holstered on his belt.

Officer Lavimoniere used his hand to keep the Taser secured in the holster, but Gilbert was able to rip the battery/camera from the Taser and render it inoperable. Gilbert threw the battery at Officer Lavimoniere prior to lunging out of the cell and into the booking room.

Once in the booking room, Gilbert leapt onto the processing counter and began throwing items at the officers. Officer Lavimoniere drew his Taser and tried to use it, not realizing it was inoperable. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent observed Gilbert violently rip the gas canister from the Intoxilyzer machine, lift it over his head, and make motions as if he was going to throw the canister at them. Officer Lavimoniere lifted his arm to block Gilbert from striking him with the canister, at which time Gilbert threw the remainder of the Intoxilyzer machine at him.

Officer Schafranski-Broadbent said Gilbert then ran past Officer Lavimoniere towards her with closed fists. She said Gilbert began to put her in a choke-hold. She was able to put her chin to her shoulder in an effort to prevent him from choking her. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent stated she did not know if an officer pulled Gilbert off of her or if he let go of her on his own. She then saw Sgt. Johnson and Officer Lavimoniere fighting with Gilbert in the corner of the booking room near the sally port door. Officer Lavimoniere and Sgt. Johnson were able to push Gilbert to the corner and take him down to the ground. Sgt. Johnson and Officer Lavimoniere attempted to grab Gilbert's arms as he continued to struggle. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent radioed a request for assistance on a "Bravo," which signals officers to respond with lights and sirens. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent said Gilbert bit her left leg, then ripped off her sneaker and bit her hard on the inner portion of her foot. She kicked and pulled her leg away from Gilbert, as she continued to struggle to gain control of him.

During the struggle with Gilbert, Officer Lavimoniere observed that Gilbert did not appear to tire and remained extremely strong. Sgt. Johnson stated that he and Officer Lavimoniere were tiring, but Gilbert's strength seemed unaffected by the struggle. Officer Lavimoniere stated the resistance was so violent that they had to call for other police officers to assist and that even with their assistance they could not place handcuffs on Gilbert who kept putting his hands underneath his body. Officer Lavimoniere and Sgt. Johnson, with the assistance of other officers, were able to get one handcuff on Gilbert as he continued to struggle and attempted to bite officers.

Officer Doreen Coe stated, in a written statement, that when she arrived to assist, Gilbert was prone, actively struggling to push up off the ground by rearing his hips and legs upward while attempting to bite the officers. She deployed her Taser and drive stunned Gilbert on his lower back in an attempt to make Gilbert comply. (Drive stun is the application of the Taser, where the Taser is held against an individual's body without firing the projectiles and is intended to cause pain without incapacitating the individual). Gilbert continued to struggle. Officer Coe deployed her Taser a second time in the drive stun mode in the same location. The Taser report, downloaded from Officer Coe's Taser at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy indicated that on October 4, 2014 at approximately 2:43 a.m., the Taser was used for five seconds and at approximately 2:45 a.m., the Taser was used a second time for five seconds. Officer Lavimoniere stated that with the assistance of at least five officers, they eventually were able to place Gilbert in handcuffs and gain control of Gilbert. Sgt. Johnson stated he then requested an ambulance due to the Taser deployment and Gilbert's bizarre and violent behavior.

Officer Richard Cable stated in a written statement that he assisted in securing Gilbert. Upon his arrival, Officer Cable observed that Gilbert had been handcuffed and shackled. Officer Cable stated he held Gilbert's hands and double locked the handcuffs to prevent them from over tightening. Gilbert was actively attempting to prevent officers from restraining him and continued to try to get up. Officer Cable stated Gilbert would rear up, flex his body and spit at officers. Gilbert kept repeating, "Get it out of me!", and "I got to get out of here'" Officer Wayne Neff stated in a written statement that he assisted in attempting to gain control of Gilbert. Gilbert was combative and was moving, spitting, grabbing and attempting to bite everyone. He asked for someone to cover Gilbert's mouth. Officer White brought in a towel and placed it on the prisoner's head. Officer Nott stated that Gilbert continued to struggle even after he was handcuffed. Officer Coe stated that while waiting for the ambulance, the prisoner kept screaming, "I can't breathe!" However, the accused continued to speak. Officer Neff stated he made sure the prisoner was still breathing.

At approximately 2:52 a.m., the New London Fire Department ambulance arrived to transport Gilbert to the hospital. Sgt. Johnson stated that, as Gilbert was put onto the stretcher, he continued to speak unintelligibly and continued to attempt to bite. Officer White stated, in a written statement, that he met with fire department personnel at the sally port, and advised them that Gilbert had bitten one officer and may be HIV positive. He was given a white sheet which he placed loosely around Gilbert's face. Officer White observed Gilbert biting at the sheet and thrashing his head around. Officer White was given a soft mask a minute later and was able to put it on Gilbert. It took numerous police officers and fire department personnel to put Gilbert onto a stretcher and into the waiting ambulance. Officer Bunkley stated that while walking the stretcher to the ambulance, Gilbert continued to struggle and that he and Officer Neff had to stay at each side to maintain control. Officer White stated that while Gilbert was being loaded into the ambulance, he did not appear to be moving. Officer Neff told Officer White that Gilbert still had a pulse. Officer Neff said that outside the ambulance, Gilbert was still moving, so he sat on Gilbert's legs and held onto Gilbert's handcuffs. The ambulance crew then loaded him and the prisoner into the ambulance.

Officers Neff, Coe and Bunkley accompanied Gilbert in the ambulance along with Reginald Hansen of the New London Fire Department. While enroute to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, Officer Coe observed Gilbert actively straining against the restraints. She could see his jaw moving upward as he was biting at the soft mask. Officer Bunkley stated that as they began to transport Gilbert to the hospital he stopped moving. Officer Neff and Hansen checked Gilbert for a pulse and an oxygen mask was put on his face. Officer Neff could feel a faint radial pulse, but as he checked a moment later he did not feel a pulse. The handcuffs were removed. Hansen checked and did not feel a pulse. Hansen and Officer Neff turned the prisoner over and began performing CPR. Officer Coe said that once at the hospital the emergency room staff continued to try to revive Gilbert but were unsuccessful.

In a written statement obtained from New London Firefighter Reginald Hansen, he stated that on October 4, 2014, at approximately 2:44 a.m. the New London Fire Department ambulance was dispatched to the New London Police Department for a violent/psych evaluation in the holding area. The ambulance arrived at 2:48 a.m. Hansen entered the police holding area and saw Gilbert lying on the floor. Gilbert was face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. Several officers were on the floor around the prisoner trying to restrain Gilbert as he continued to move. Hansen watched as the police put the Gilbert on the stretcher face down. Hansen noted that Gilbert was still moving around on the stretcher and being combative with the officers. The police had to use the straps to secure Gilbert to the stretcher. Hansen stated that he, Officer Neff, Officer Bunkley and a female officer rode in the back of the ambulance with Gilbert. Gilbert continued to move on the stretcher. Officer Bunkley was holding the prisoner's feet. Officer Neff, who was no longer on the stretcher, was trying to control Gilbert's torso with his hands on Gilbert's back. Hansen noticed that Gilbert had stopped breathing. He immediately checked Gilbert for a pulse but was unable to find one. Hansen and Officer Neff performed CPR on the prisoner until they got to the hospital. Hansen said he first noticed that the prisoner was not breathing less than a minute from when they closed the ambulance door at the police station.

Gilbert's medical records indicated that he was readmitted to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital on October 4,2014 at 3:00 a.m. The records noted that the police had called the hospital to advise that they were going to bring him to the emergency department for sedation due to agitation and aggressive combative behavior. The records stated that, "on route to the hospital, the patient had a witnessed cardiac arrest."

Chest compressions were started immediately and continued upon arrival at the hospital. Gilbert was intubated, given epinephrine and shocked with no change. Dr. Melissa L. Monte declared Gilbert deceased at 3:23 a.m.

Officer Lavimoniere stated that once additional officers arrived, he was relieved to seek medical attention. He suffered a laceration on his right palm and several scratches on his face. Officer Lavimoniere was transported to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital where he received treatment for a laceration on his hand, scratches on his face, contusions on his left elbow and additional scrapes and scratches on his face, arms and right thigh.

Officer Schafranski-Broadbent stated she was relieved by another officer so she could receive medical attention. She noticed pain in her neck, the back of her head and her left fool. Officer Schafranski-Broadbent was transported to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital for the injury to her left foot which was swelling in the area Gilbert had bitten her, an abrasion on her head and pain in her neck and her hip.

Sgt. Johnson stated that once Gilbert was under control, he exited the booking area to rinse the Oleoresin Capsicum spray from his face at which time he felt pain in his wrist and knees. Sgt. Johnson received treatment at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital for the injuries received during the struggle.

Seized by the Eastern District Major Crime Squad on October 4, 2014 was an Imation 8GB USB flash drive containing video surveillance from the New London Police Department's video cameras (Evidence Item #34). The flash drive included three separate files labelled, "Incident File", "Backlot Sally", and "Booking and Tank". The video surveillance substantially corroborated the statements of the New London police officers.

On October 5, 2014, an autopsy was performed on Lashano Gilbert by Dr. James Gill, Chief Medical Examiner, at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington, CT. An autopsy report was completed on January 22, 2015. Dr. Gill found the cause of the death to be physical altercation including restraint, electric shock and pepper spray, during acute psychosis complicating sickle cell hemaglobinopathy and the manner of death homicide (physical altercation with the police). The report's final anatomic diagnosis noted scattered abrasions and contusions. There were punctate/puncture injuries to the chest consistent with the application of a electromechanical disruptive device, Taser. Further evidence of the use of an electromechanical disruptive device was observed on the lower back. The final anatomic diagnosis found that Gilbert suffered from Sickle Cell Trait with resultant cardiac hypertrophy. Dr. Gill's examination found no evidence of internal injuries or internal collection of blood. Dr. Gill stated that his examination failed to reveal any trauma or injury to Gilbert that would have caused his death. Dr. Gill explained that the acute psychotic episode and the altercation with the police caused Gilbert's blood to sickle. Once Gilbert's blood sickled, the blood was not able to carry enough oxygen to his body, ultimately leading to his death. Due to a lack of medical history, it was not known whether Gilbert was aware that he had Sickle Cell Trait.

APPLICABLE LAW

Although I have concluded that members of the New London Police Department did not use deadly physical force, the prevailing law on the use of deadly physical force at the time of the incident is relevant to the facts in this case. Section 53a-22 (c) of the 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. See 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 §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 (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).

CONCLUSION

Section 53a-22(b) of the General Statutes provides that a peace officer is justified in using physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person from the use or imminent use of physical force or while preventing or attempting to prevent an escape. Based upon the preceding facts and circumstance and the applicable law found in Section 53a-22 the undersigned finds that the use of physical force was necessary to restrain Lashano Gilbert, in order to prevent him from harming himself and the police officers present and to prevent his escape. The use of physical force was, therefore, appropriate.

I would like to thank the Connecticut State Police Eastern District Major Crime Squad and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for their roles in this investigation. In addition, I would like to thank the New London Police Department for its assistance and cooperation.

No further action is to be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of this incident.

Dated at New London, Connecticut this 2nd day of September, 2015.

MICHAEL L. REGAN

State’s Attorney
Judicial District of New London



Content Last Modified on 9/14/2015 2:15:23 PM