New Britain Police Department releases its documentation on 2017 shootings

Published on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:52
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - City officials on Tuesday released all information gathered by the Police Department on the shootings that killed one man and wounded two others as officers tried to stop their car on Dec. 14, 2017.

Activists and the families of Zoe Dowdell, 20, who was killed, and Caleb Tisdol, 16, and Noah Young, 19, who were wounded, have been calling for the release of all information related to the shootings for months.

Police Chief James Wardwell said in a statement issued Saturday that, since Fairfield State’s Attorney John Smriga had finished his investigation, he would work with city attorneys to provide all documentation and recordings the city has.

Smriga concluded after his investigation that the five city officers who fired on the three as they were fleeing in Dowdell’s car were justified in using deadly force.

Activists say they will protest the finding on Jan. 26 in front of police headquarters.

“This external investigation into this tragic event is finally completed. While not by design, that necessarily independent investigation mandated by statute, had created an external barrier to our department’s mission which embraces transparency with our community,” Wardwell said. “Now that this external restriction is removed with the conclusion of the state investigation, I have been working with our city attorneys for the full and immediate release of all additional requested information that is legally disclosable.”

Among the documents released were statements given by Detective Christopher Kiely, Officer Kyle Jones, Officer Marcin Ratajczak, Detective Michael Slavin and Detective Chad Nelson, the five officers who fired their guns during the incident.

Kiely described a chaotic scene unfolding, in which he could see Dowdell ducking as the detective shot into the car, a Toyota Paseo, to get him to stop. Kiely and Jones were nearly struck by Dowdell was he tried to escape by driving over the sidewalk and around a utility pole, dashboard camera video shows.

Dowdell was still alive when he crashed the car into a pickup truck and officers tried to stop the bleeding coming from gunshot wounds to his head and neck, the statements said.

Wardwell also released all 911 calls and police transmissions recorded as the incident was taking place.

More than 50 pages of police reports released detail the timeline of the violent carjacking-style robberies in New Britain prior to the shootings and officers’ attempts to locate the car leading up to the time it was spotted on Newington Avenue on Dec. 14.

The last carjacking attempt had occurred Dec. 11 on Fairview Street and ended with the victims fleeing as the suspects who tried to steal their car fired on them with two separate guns, the reports said.

At least one of the guns found in Dowdell’s car the night of the shootings has been connected to the Dec. 11 carjacking attempt, police reports said.

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


Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Tuesday, 8 January 2019 20:52. Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2019 07:25.