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Lawyer questions West Hartford officer

Jun 07, 2023

The lawyer for the family of the man who was fatally shot by a West Hartford police officer is questioning the response to the man’s injuries based on a video obtained from a bystander at the scene.

Peter Bowman, lead civil partner at BBB Attorneys — the firm representing the family of Mike Alexander-Garcia, who was shot and killed by a West Hartford police officer Aug. 8, said “It does appear to be about a two-minute delay from when we would have expected them under the appropriate guidelines to start CPR to when CPR was started.”

In response to Bowman’s contention, West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick issued a statement Friday encouraging any judgments to be withheld until after an investigation into the shooting has been completed.

“The Office of Inspector General is in the midst of conducting a thorough, independent investigation into every aspect of this matter, as required under state law,” Riddick said. “The West Hartford Police Department is and has been fully cooperating with this review. It is important to avoid any rush to judgment based on partial evidence, and it is critical that all facts be reviewed in order to get a full and accurate picture of events.”

Alexander-Garcia, 34, was shot multiple times and later died after fleeing a crash involving a stolen vehicle and attempting to steal a car from the garage of the Town Fair Tire on New Britain Avenue. West Hartford Officer Andrew Teeter deployed his police dog into the vehicle Alexander-Garcia was trying to steal before getting inside as well.

Teeter — who suffered a broken rib and multiple head lacerations during the incident — fired the shots at Alexander-Garcia when he backed out of the garage and began driving away; the car then crashed into two vehicles, before striking a utility pole.

The state Office of Inspector General is investigating the officer’s use of deadly force along with Connecticut State Police. State police deferred comment to the Inspector General’s office.

When asked for comment regarding the time it took to provide medical aid to Alexander-Garcia, a spokesperson for the Inspector General said the investigation is “in its early stages.”

“I will keep you posted of any developments,” the spokesperson said.

The OIG has released portions of videos taken in the moments leading up to the shooting and when multiple shots were fired, which were gathered by a camera worn by Teeter and those affixed to police cruisers involved in the incident. Surveillance footage from inside Town Fair Tire has also been released.

But a video taken by a bystander inside Town Fair — obtained by Bowman’s firm and shared with The Courant — show the scene after the crash.

The four-and-a-half-minute video, shot by a bystander who was across the street from the utility pole Alexander-Garcia crashed into during the shooting, shows officers apparently struggling to pull Alexander-Garcia out of the vehicle for nearly a minute before they get him on the ground. Several seconds go by before one of two officers standing over Alexander-Garcia begins pulling latex gloves out of his pocket and putting them on, followed by more officers approaching and also putting gloves on.

About a minute and a half into the video, a motorist pulls up and blocks direct view of what officers are doing, though they appear to be crouched down over Alexander-Garcia. Just before the two-minute mark of the video, an officer runs to his cruiser to retrieve what appears to be medical supplies while other officers stay with Alexander-Garcia. The officers at this point do not appear to be administering chest compressions.

The bystander shooting the video then pans away to follow the officer running to a cruiser before putting Alexander-Garcia back into view at about two minutes and 10 seconds into the video. At this point, officers can clearly be seen performing chest compressions.

Conceding that he has no information indicating faster medical aid could have made a difference, Bowman is questioning whether officers should have been quicker to jump into chest compressions.

“That’s a pretty standard thing nationwide as established by the FBI and other departments,” he said of immediate first aid, adding that the results of an independent autopsy requested by his firm will shed more light on the timing of the CPR.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has said Alexander-Garcia died of gunshot wounds to the torso, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

Bowman’s firm — which focuses on civil litigation and has multiple locations throughout Connecticut — has also raised other questions about the shooting of Alexander-Garcia, including about use of the police dog, and Teeter entering the vehicle.

Bowman acknowledged none of those questions can be answered until the incident is properly investigated.

“Again, more information could come out that we need to understand,” Bowman said.

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