Activists to protest findings in New Britain shootings on Jan. 26

Published on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:54
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - Activists from around the state will be invited to a Jan. 26 protest against the decision by an independent state’s attorney not to charge five city police officers who fired on a carload of men in December 2017, killing Zoe Dowdell and wounding two others.

The protest is set for outside New Britain police headquarters at 11 a.m., said Hartford activist Cornell Lewis.

Fairfield State’s Attorney John Smriga concluded in a report released Thursday that the officers had been justified in using deadly force while trying to take Dowdell and two others into custody.

The families of the two men who were wounded, Caleb Tisdol, 16, and Noah Young, 19, were vocal during a news conference Saturday as they expressed their outage at Smriga’s findings.

Dowdell’s family did not attend. His mother has filed a $6.5 million civil rights lawsuit against the city.

Lewis, who started a group called the Self Defense Brigade to highlight issues of racial injustice and police brutality toward people of color, and Bishop John Selders, a Hartford activist who founded Moral Monday Connecticut, will be hosting the protest.

Earlier protests demanding the release of the dashboard camera videos of the shootings drew dozens of people from outside New Britain. Local minority leaders have remained supportive of city police since the shootings on Dec. 14, 2017.

The local chapter of the NAACP and local ministers will be invited to the Jan. 26 protest, Lewis said.

“Hopefully this will wake them up from their Rip Van Winkle-like slumber,” he added.

Police were looking for Dowdell’s green Toyota Paseo the night of Dec. 14, 2017, believing the car had been involved in four violent armed carjackings or carjacking attempts in the days and weeks before the shootings. The car was spotted on Newington Avenue and followed to Chapman Street, where marked and unmarked police vehicles tried to box it in.

Dash cam videos from two marked cruisers show a chaotic scene, with police cars hitting the Toyota as the driver tried to flee by driving onto the sidewalk and around a utility pole.

Two officers in Dowdell’s path were able to get out of the way and fire three shots each. Another two officers kept firing as the car was headed away. A fifth officer fired two shots.

The officers, who fired a total of 28 shots at the vehicle. have been on restricted duty for a year.

Dowdell was hit in the back of the head, the back of the neck and the legs. He was pronounced dead shortly after he was brought to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

Caleb Tisdol, who was 15 at the time, was shot in the leg, while Young, 18 at the time, ducked in the back seat and was grazed by a bullet. Two guns were found in the car, one of which was loaded, when state police searched it as part of the investigation.

Tisdol was later charged with committing several robberies in surrounding towns in the weeks before the shootings. He and Young were also charged with committing a New Britain robbery. Both have been held on bond since their initial arrest.

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:54. Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:56.