HARTFORD - Two Connecticut police officers who shot a high school psychologist to death during a domestic violence call last year were justified in using deadly force and no charges will be filed, according to a state prosecutor's report released Wednesday.
Windham State's Attorney Anne Mahoney investigated the East Hartford officers’ shooting of 43-year-old John Carras during a violent struggle with him outside his home on Sept. 5, 2019. She concluded the officers reasonably believed using deadly force was necessary to defend themselves against Carras.
Officer Andre Lyew fired five shots and officer Daniel Zaleski fired once as Carras charged at Lyew with his fists clenched while screaming, Mahoney said.
The shooting came after Carras had choked his wife to unconsciousness, police said. His wife, identified only as Victim One in the report because she is a domestic violence victim, was seriously injured but survived.
Before the shooting, Carras punched Zaleski in his face several times, put the officer in a chokehold, rendered him nearly unconscious and tried to take his gun, Mahoney said. He then rushed at Lyew, who fired a stun gun. The probes struck Carras, but they didn't stop him. Carras then punched Lyew in the head and tried to throw Zaleski over the deck railing, Mahoney said.
Carras, a psychologist at Berlin High School, was later pronounced dead at Hartford Hospital. An autopsy showed he was shot six times and had fentanyl and other drugs in his system.
“John Carras became the aggressor with the police officers. He violently resisted arrest,” Mahoney wrote in her report. “At first glance it seems unusual that two armed police officers could not subdue an unarmed man without the use of deadly force."
The report continued, “Decisions made by these officers under duress in the confined area of the deck within seconds are easy to second guess. The officers here responded to what appeared to be a homicide and used voice commands, warnings, physical force, and a Taser to try and contain the enraged suspect who although unarmed, fought as though he had nothing left to lose.”
Mahoney said Carras was known as “a well-respected professional and loving family man," and her report said there had been no previous history of police involvement at his home. But the report also said Carras “suffered from intense jealousy” in his relationship with Victim One, whom police previously identified as his wife.
Carras began assaulting his wife that day after discovering a text on her phone sent by her work colleague “after school hours,” the report said.
Mahoney said neither officer had any substantiated citizens’ complaints against them.
But Mahoney noted that East Hartford police had neither body cameras nor dashboard cameras, which would have “substantially” helped her review of the shooting.