Protestors confront Hamden Mayor nearly two weeks after officer-involved shooting
By Caitlin Fish
Protesters left the streets of Hamden on Monday and marched into Mayor Curt Balzano Leng’s, office demanding that Hamden’s police commission conduct an independent investigation of a police-involved shooting that happened two weeks prior.
Demonstrators are still requesting that Devin Eaton, the Hamden Police Department officer involved in the shooting of an unarmed couple, be fired immediately.
Mayor Leng said that he does not have the power to fire Eaton although he agrees with what the protestors are requesting.
“I have seen enough to say that I don’t think that Officer Eaton should be a Hamden police officer any longer,” Leng said.
Although Hamden PD cannot head the criminal investigation, the department's ethics and integrity unit will also conduct its own local investigation, according to Mayor Leng.
The two officers involved are on paid leave while the investigation remains underway.
Kiesha Greene, the mother of the unarmed driver involved in the shooting, Paul Witherspoon III, addressed the media Monday and said she agrees that the officers should be fired.
Greene said that she believes the shooting does not only concern her son and Stephanie Washington, the woman who was shot, but that it’s about the community and its entirety.
“Next week it could be somebody else’s child, and I don’t want to see this happen to anyone’s kid,” Greene said.
She voiced her disappointment in not being contacted by the ministers who held the prayer service Sunday in New Haven at the Varick Memorial Church in wake of the shooting.
“How do you have that type of meeting and not have the victims there or the victim’s parents there, because aren’t you talking about the situation that happened,” she said. “Wouldn’t you want to be able to speak to us and have our voices be heard?”
The service was called Hope for Healing and community leaders joined law enforcement officials to focus on finding healing and helping to build trust between the community and law enforcement.
Jacob Schmidt, a 22-year-old Yale student from Richmond, Michigan, decided to go to the service after participating in two of the protests that happened near his school.
“It was so powerful to see everyone come together, leave their apprehensions at the door and commit to a peaceful service,” Schmidt said. “I think this is something that the community should continue to aspire to.”
Pastor of the service, Kelcy G.I Steele, said he believes religious leaders must play a part in improving the community's policing.
“We are committed to building bridges between police and community and we understand that policing in America is facing a crisis of legitimacy and purpose,” Steele said, according to WFSB.
Connecticut State Police have yet to come to a conclusion on the investigation. During a press conference last Tuesday, the latest information on the investigation and Officer Eaton’s body cam footage from the incident were released.
The state’s public safety commissioner, James Rovella, conducted the press conference. He noted that the release of the footage marked a difference in operation procedures.
“Before we used to not show any of this until the conclusion of the investigation,” Rovella said.
Rovella said that state police do not have footage from the Yale officer Terrence Pollock because his body cam was not turned on during the time of the incident.
“In a perfect world, he would have turned on his camera sooner, but the officer was facing many stressors at the time,” he said.
Rovella revealed that the communication between Hamden PD and New Haven during the night of the shooting may have contributed to how the incident played out.
“Hamden tells New Haven that, in fact, they’ve had an armed robbery involving a firearm. They did not tell New Haven that Hamden was actually entering their city,” Rovella said.
He stated that the officers involved will not be charged until the investigation is completed. Information from officers about what was going on in their heads during the shooting is still lacking because the officers have been on leave, according to the commissioner.
“I have concerns about many different aspects of how this case was handled.”