Officer Who Fired 13 Shots At Unarmed Black Couple Listening To Love Songs In Their Car Charged With Assault
The officer was charged Monday, six months after the shooting occurred.
Update (October 24, 2019): Devin Eaton, the Connecticut police officer responsible for firing 13 shots into a Black couple’s vehicle near Yale University, has been arrested and charged with assault and reckless endangerment.
State Attorney Patrick Griffin stated in an investigation report that Eaton demonstrated “an extreme indifference to human life” on the evening of April 16. The Hamden police officer and Yale University Police Officer Terrance Pollock fired multiple rounds into the car where Stephanie Washington and her boyfriend Paul Witherspoon sat. According to reports, police said the couple’s vehicle matched the description of one linked to an armed robbery nearby. Though neither person was armed, Washington was shot in the face and sustained injuries to her pelvis and spine.
Eaton was arrested Monday, six months after the incident that rattled the school community, causing an immediate response of protests.
Hamden Connecticut #police #cop Devin Eaton MUGSHOT! Typical of 21st century "policing": "officer" Devin Eaton "showed an extreme indifference to human life". https://t.co/f2QJBA6WoC pic.twitter.com/DsBEMBU5Lv— terra malum (@terra_malum) October 23, 2019
According to NBC News, the 29-year-old officer has been on the police force for three years and is expected to appear in court next week to face one count of first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment.
Eaton, who posted $100,000 bail, defended his use of force in a statement to investigators.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP, said while Eaton’s arrest is a step in the right direction, it’s “no time to celebrate.”
“Being arrested is one thing and getting convicted is another,” he told NBC News.
Insistent that the other Yale University officer should also face charges, he added, “We’ve seen officers arrested but walk away without being convicted ... We still have a long way to go.”
Original (April 26, 2019): Hamden, Connecticut, has been beset by protests nearly a week after an unarmed Black couple was shot at while they sat in their car singing love songs to each other. Stephanie Washington suffered non-life threatening injuries to her face and her boyfriend, Paul Witherspoon III, was not harmed in the shooting.
In a video released by local CBS affiliate WFSB-TV, Hamden police officer Devin Eaton gets out of his police car and opens fire at Washington and Witherspoon III while running down the street.
On Sunday, hundreds of protesters from Yale flooded local streets to demand a statement from the police chief about the incident. Police officers claimed they were responding to reports of a robbery that occurred at a local gas station. It is still unclear why police stopped the couple's car, but Eaton said he began firing because Witherspoon III started to get out of the vehicle.
"Everyone is not a suspect. And that's how people feel," resident Kevin Walter told CNN affiliate WTNH. "We just want the police, we want the chiefs, we want the elected officials to understand that and hear what the community is saying. We just want accountability."
In video footage before the shooting, Witherspoon and Washington are seen kissing and singing "Nothing in This World" by R&B singer Avant and Keke Wyatt to each other. Moments later, officer Eaton opened fire. Officer Eaton has been placed on administrative leave, and the Yale police officer who was with him, Terrance Pollack, has also been placed on leave.
The mayor of Hamden released a statement on Twitter and Facebook saying police will release bodycam footage of the incident later this week and plan to meet again to discuss ways to move forward.
"I am so deeply sorry to the individuals who were involved that this ever occurred, and also very thankful that the healing has begun," he said Saturday in a statement. "We will do better. We must do better."— Curt Balzano Leng (@curtleng) April 21, 2019
- Mayor Curt Balzano Leng https://t.co/40JucIFIQb
Witherspoon's uncle, Rodney Williams, told CBS News that the race of the officers did not matter. What mattered was the training police officers get and how they respond to situations involving Black people.
"You need to look at what's really going on with the police...really look at how the police look at residents period," he said. "The police could be Black, white, Puerto Rican...it's just a police issue...I think we need to be respected as human beings and I feel like they really don't."