By Dave Collins, Associated Press
A Connecticut police officer who opened fire on an unarmed couple’s car and wounded a 22-year-old woman was charged Monday with felony assault and reckless endangerment.
State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin determined the April 16 use of force in New Haven was not justified and filed charges against Hamden officer Devin Eaton, officials announced.
The shooting sparked several protests in New Haven and neighboring Hamden and prompted calls from area clergy and activists for both officers to be fired.
Police initially said Eaton and Yale University officer Terrance Pollack opened fire on the car when the driver, Paul Witherspoon III, got out abruptly. Witherspoon’s girlfriend, Stephanie Washington, was wounded but recovered. The shooting was recorded by Eaton’s body camera and surveillance cameras.
Messages seeking comment were left for Eaton and his attorney Monday. Griffin determined that Pollack’s use of force was justified.
Officials say Eaton posted $100,000 bail and was ordered to appear in court Oct. 28 to face one count of first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
Authorities said Eaton and Pollack stopped the car while investigating a reported attempted armed robbery in Hamden. The car matched the description of the one involved in the attempted robbery.
Eaton told investigators he believed Witherspoon had a gun. He did not.
“Under circumstances evincing an extreme indifference to human life, he recklessly engaged in conduct which created a risk of death, and thereby caused serious physical injury to Washington,” Griffin said in his report. “Additionally, the reckless manner in which the shots were discharged placed those in the immediate vicinity, including Paul Witherspoon and Officer Pollock, at risk for serious physical injury.”
Pollock fired three shots, but Griffin said that use of force was justified because he believed Eaton and Witherspoon were exchanging gunfire. Pollock was wounded by a shot fired by Eaton but recovered.