NEW BRITAIN - As the names of the officers involved in the deadly shooting Thursday of a robbery suspect were released, the head of the local NAACP said Monday he is satisfied with the way the police chief and the mayor’s office are handling the aftermath of the incident.
“I have faith in Chief (James) Wardwell that he’s doing the right thing and he’s making sure we know what’s going on,” said Ron Davis, president of the New Britain chapter of the NAACP. “We’re waiting for the full investigation to be complete.”
On Monday, Wardwell released the names of the five officers who fired their service weapons as, according to the officers, the car carrying three robbery suspects was lurching toward them in an attempt to escape.
One of the suspects, 20-year-old Zoe Dowdell, a rapper known as Gangstalicious, died. A 15-year-old was also injured and 18-year-old Noah Young, of Bloomfield, was grazed by a bullet.
The department is holding itself accountable to the community, Wardwell said, and cooperating fully with the investigation.
Detectives Marcin Ratajcak and Christopher Kiely and officers Michael Slavin, Kyle Jones and Chad Nelson will be on desk duty as the investigation into the shootings continues, Wardwell said. The five are assigned to either the street crimes unit, the detective division or the Narcotics Unit, Wardwell said. None have a significant disciplinary history and none have been put on restrictive duty prior to the shootings.
“The above officers have been placed on Restricted Duty (desk duty) while the facts and circumstances of the incident are thoroughly investigated by the Connecticut State Police, under the supervision of the Middletown State’s Attorney’s Office, and a complete internal administrative investigation is conducted by the New Britain Police Department. The officers are cooperating fully with these continuing investigations,” Wardwell said in a press release issued Monday morning.
Ratajcak has been with the department since 2004, Kiely since 2009. Slavin and Nelson were hired in 2014 and Jones was a lateral transfer who was hired by New Britain in 2015.
State police were called in to take over the investigation into the shooting within minutes, Wardwell said.
Under state law, the investigation will be overseen by a state’s attorney from a different jurisdiction, in this case Middlesex State’s Attorney Peter McShane. At McShane’s instruction, city attorneys have not released any information, 911 calls or videos related to the robberies or the shootings.
The three who were shot were considered suspects in four city robberies in recent weeks. In one, a suspect fired a gun at the car as the intended victim fled. Within the same hour, a second victim was pistol-whipped during a separate robbery.
Police believe the green Toyota Paseo that Dowdell was driving Thursday night was involved in the robberies. Officers spotted the Paseo in the area of Chapman Street Thursday night and boxed the car in. Young told state police investigators that the three had bought heroin in New Britain and didn’t want to be arrested, so they tried to flee.
State police said the New Britain officers were outside their vehicles with guns drawn when the Paseo began heading toward them, “causing them to fire their weapons.”
The police service weapons were turned over for testing to determine which officers had fired, Wardwell said. The results indicated that the five officers named had used their guns that night. State police have not released any information on which officers fired the shots that hit the suspects.
Trooper Kelly Grant said the investigation is ongoing and she had no timeframe on when it would be completed.
Wardwell has been in touch with the NAACP with updates, Davis said. Davis has also been in communication with the office of Mayor Erin Stewart.
“We didn’t want the community to be in an uproar,” he said. “We are all working together.”
Davis said he is willing to wait until the conclusion of the state police investigation before making any judgments about what happened Thursday night.
“We don’t know what happened yet,” Davis said. “I do know police said there were drugs and guns in the car. I don’t want to say anything to minimize the life of this young boy, but it’s obvious we have much to teach and we have a police department that’s willing to work with us.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.