HARTFORD — Mayor Pedro Segarra said Wednesday that the Hartford police internal affairs division and a civilian review board will investigate an officer's use of a stun gun on an 18-year-old during a confrontation in the city's North End.
In a statement released by his spokeswoman, the mayor said that the city was treating the incident "very seriously" and that the investigation "will determine if disciplinary or any other further action is necessary."
The teenager, Luis Anglero Jr., was in stable condition Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, police said. He was charged with interfering with police and breach of peace, and released on a promise to appear in court. Police said they booked him at the hospital.
Maryann Yearwood, Anglero's mother, said that she witnessed the incident Tuesday afternoon and intends to file a complaint against the officer for what she called an excessive use of force.
The stun gun shooting took place as police were attempting to break up a crowd that had gathered at Albany Avenue and Garden Street.
Police said that Anglero was acting "aggressively" toward officers and was disobeying orders to leave the area. But family and witnesses said that Anglero had stopped advancing and was complying with orders when he was shocked.
Witnesses said Wednesday that Anglero appeared to have stopped advancing on the officer and had his hands at his sides when he was stunned.
"He didn't deserve it. He stopped," Natasha Rodriguez, Anglero's neighbor, said Wednesday. "He did what the cop told him to do."
The Courant obtained a cellphone video from a witness that shows Anglero on the ground. The officer, identified as Det. Shawn Ware, is standing over him and telling others to back off. The cellphone video does not show what transpired between Anglero and Ware before he was hit with the Taser.
FOX CT obtained surveillance video from a nearby business showing the moments before the Taser was shot. Anglero is seen rapidly advancing toward Ware before coming to a stop and putting his hands down by his side. There is a pause, and then Ware advances three steps toward Anglero before firing the Taser. Anglero immediately falls to the ground. The surveillance video does not contain audio. Anglero is not wearing a shirt in either video.
Family and friends said that Anglero hit his head when he fell, drawing blood, and then began having what looked like a seizure.
The Rev. Henry Brown, a community activist who works with Mothers United Against Violence, was with Yearwood at her Garden Street home Wednesday afternoon and said he was troubled by some of what he saw in the videos. He said, however, that he was confident in the investigation and wasn't ready to pass judgment.
"I heard that a young man had been Tasered and I got a little excited, because we all know what happened down in Ferguson and we don't need that kind of tension here," Brown said. "In the end, the truth will come out."
Hartford Deputy Chief Brian J. Foley said Wednesday that he had read the police report on the incident and that it states that Ware clearly displayed the Taser prior to firing it and had asked Anglero to leave the area, which is proper protocol in such situations.
Foley said the Taser shooting occurred because Anglero was acting aggressively toward officers and had disobeyed a police supervisor's orders not to advance any farther.
"Officers were made alert of a group disturbance at the mini-mart," Foley said. "They made progress in breaking up that disturbance. The accused came into the scene aggressively, came running up the street toward the officers, took his shirt off, had his fists clenched. The officers gave him verbal commands to stay out of the scene. He ignored. He came at the officer, and the officer used his Taser one time."
A report prepared by Hartford police Sgt. Winston Brooks said that Ware "attempt[ed] to disperse" a crowd at Albany Avenue and Garden Street, but that "one of the individuals did not comply with orders to disperse and continued to display aggressive behavior."
"In an attempt to stop this individual from escalating his aggressive behavior, Detective Ware deployed his Taser, which stopped this individual's aggressive behavior and assisted in eventually dispersing the crowd," Brooks wrote in the report.
"This incident reminds us that Tasers are dangerous weapons designed to paralyze muscles and drop people to the ground," said David McGuire, state attorney for the ACLU of Connecticut. "The video raises questions about why the officer in this case chose to use the Taser, and the questions demand a thorough and impartial investigation."
Pedro Gil, who said he was present during the incident, described trying to grab Anglero to prevent him from advancing, but added: "He's very skinny, so he kind of weaseled out." That's when Anglero's shirt came off, he said.
Gil said that Anglero "wanted to go hit the guy that hit his sister" during the disturbance, but that when Ware told Anglero to stop, he dropped his hands and froze. Gil said that Ware then shot Anglero with the Taser.
Foley said that Ware shocked Anglero once and that, according to the report, it lasted five seconds, which is the automatic setting on the gun. Foley said that a supervisor witnessed the incident and a deputy chief arrived later.
According to the Hartford Police Department's policy on using stun guns, officers are justified to use "only that amount of force that reasonably appears necessary to affect an arrest, to control a situation, or to defend themselves or a third person from harm."
Foley said that Ware was still on active duty after the incident.
In the North End on Wednesday, many in the neighborhood said such incidents contribute to a tense relationship between the community and police.
"He was minding his own business," said Shaquana Mack, who said she witnessed the incident. "I don't trust them. They're supposed to be taking care of us, but when something like this happens, it's hard to believe that."
The Rev. Stephen Camp has organized a meeting Friday to address police relations with the community. Camp has invited Segarra, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, members of the Hartford City Council and the police chiefs in Hartford, Windsor and Bloomfield to attend the 6 p.m. meeting at Faith Congregational Church, 2030 Main St.
"I think it's important that there's a level of trust between the community and the police department," he said. "The protect-and-serve [mission] needs to be first and foremost in our community in terms of the relationship between police and the community. We don't want to see another Ferguson-type scenario played out, especially here in Hartford."
Camp said that relations between Hartford's police department and residents have improved through the years, but that more work needs to be done.
"I think we have a better track record here in Hartford than what's been seen in Missouri, but I think in the black community, what we've seen is not what it could be," he said. "I think we're in a place where we could build on some of the good that the police department has tried to do in terms of community policing."