Officer Fires 13 Shots at Unarmed Man and Woman
(CT) – Devin Eaton, with the Hamden Police Department, pled no contest to the charge of First-Degree Assault. The charge was the result of an incident that happened in April of 2019. Eaton conducted a traffic stop on individuals he believed were involved in an armed robbery.
Surveillance video showed an argument, but no attempted robbery and no gun. If the stop had been handled professionally, it’s doubtful that anyone would have been injured. That’s not what happened.
Officer Eaton ordered the driver out of the car with his hands up. As soon as the driver complied, Eaton panicked and fired at the man. Eaton then starts firing randomly at the car as he moves away from it, hitting the female passenger and responding officer, Terrance Pollock.
The shooting appeared to have started based on the mistaken belief that Witherspoon “displayed a firearm” while following the commands of the officers to get out of his car during the traffic stop. “It was subsequently determined that, at the time of the shooting, neither Witherspoon nor Washington were in possession of a firearm,” the report said.
Excessive Force Used
The New Haven State’s Attorney and the Connecticut State Police conducted the investigation into the shooting. The use of force investigation resulted in criminal charges against Eaton. Though Officer Pollock did fire three shots, he was cleared. It was determined that he had the reasonable belief that he was being fired on by the vehicle’s occupants.
Better Police Training Needed in Hamden Police Department
The video of the shooting shows this stop was a mess from the moment it was initiated. Officer Eaton stops his vehicle next to the suspect’s car, facing the opposite direction. That means when he opens his door, he is in direct line of sight with nothing to use as concealment or cover. There is a reason police turn around and come up behind cars they are stopping. Not only can they use their vehicle for cover and concealment, but the headlights will make it difficult for the suspect to see them.
Eaton realizes he is vulnerable and rushes around behind the vehicle he stopped while calling out for the man to get out of the car. Paul Witherspoon exits the car and goes to raise his hands. Eaton has increased his stress levels by handling the stop poorly, and in his mind, the individual was involved in an armed robbery. Just the motions of the man’s hands was enough for Eaton to feel threatened.
Officer Eaton fires at the driver while he is still in motion trying to get to cover. He gets to the far side of the car and begins firing into the passenger side of the car. Eaton then moves down the street, putting distance between himself and the vehicle while he continues to fire his weapon. It’s truly amazing no one was killed, though the female passenger, Stephanie Washington, was seriously injured.
Police Chief Calls for Termination, Police Union Blocks Him
Acting police chief, John Cappiello, called for Devin Eaton to be fired, but unsurprisingly, the police union blocked his efforts. That forced the Hamden Police Department to keep Eaton on their rolls while the case was litigated. Mr. Eaton accepted a sweetheart plea agreement of 18 months in jail. The agreement allows him to ask for leniency at sentencing to reduce the jail time amount, and he agreed to never seek to be a police officer again. Now that he has been convicted, he will be submitting his resignation.
Below are two videos. The first is a news video that does show some of the shooting. The second video is of the shooting and shows it in slowed down versions so you can see what happened. As the video shows, everything happened very fast, but remember, Officer Eaton set up this deadly situation. He should have pulled around and come up behind the car. Instead, he jumped out like he was superman, then quickly realized he wasn’t the man of steel and panicked.