Four Connecticut police officers who fatally shot an unarmed man during an April stand-off have been cleared of wrong-doing by the state.
The Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice recently issued its completed investigation into the deadly use of force that killed Jose Enrique Soto at his mother’s home on April 2 in Manchester.
The State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Tolland said that while Soto was unarmed that night, police reasonably believed they or the public were in danger of being fired upon.
“While it is true that Mr. Soto did not possess a firearm at the time of the shooting, and his mother had informed law enforcement personnel that he did not possess a firearm,” a report on the investigation stated, “there was an enormous amount of evidence to support the four officers’ reasonable beliefs that Mr. Soto was about [to] use deadly physical force upon one of the officers, their colleagues, or a civilian in the area.”
The investigation concluded that the officers who fatally shot Soto acted “entirely appropriate” in their handling of the incident.
On April 2, at around 7 p.m. two parole officers went to 181 Oak St. in Manchester to speak with Noraida Diaz, Soto’s mother, about her son’s status as a parole fugitive and where he might be, according to the State’s Attorney report. Soto was on parole for a prior robbery conviction and violated the terms of his release when, in October 2019, he did not return to the halfway house to which he had been assigned, the State’s Attorney said.
Soto was also wanted in connection with other robberies in Connecticut and was suspected of using a firearm in at least one of the alleged robberies.
Officers knocked on the door and eventually heard a young man, from behind the door, tell them to leave. Diaz and the young man had a conversation during which, officers concluded the man was, in fact, Soto. Manchester Police were called in for backup.
Diaz eventually went outside to talk to police and said that Soto was indeed inside, the State’s Attorney said.
At around 7:30 p.m. Diaz called out to her daughter and boyfriend - who were inside the home with Soto - to come outside. At this time, police said they heard Soto say “If you come in I’m going to be shooting,” the State Attorney said. The daughter and boyfriend left the house. Although she had initially said her son was unarmed, at this point Diaz told police she was unsure whether he had a gun, the State Attorney said.
Police then called in the Capitol Region Emergency Services Team (CREST). A crisis negotiation team was there as well. It was later learned that Soto was making phone calls during the standoff and left a few voicemail messages saying that he expected to die soon in a shootout with police, the State Attorney said.
Soto’s loved ones told police that Soto had been homeless up until just a few days ago and that he suffered from untreated PTSD and anxiety.
After nearly an hour of off-and-on communication, Soto told the crisis negotiator he was coming outside “and would make police shoot him,” the investigation noted.
Soto “aggressively” exited the house through the front door. Soto was told to get his hands up over his head; they were down by his sides. Soto then “punched” his hands together in a “firing position” while holding a “black object” that later turned out to be a cellphone, the investigation report said.
At 9:16 p.m. multiple CREST officers shot their weapons at Soto. He was struck several times and fell to the front porch of the house. Soto received medical attention at the scene and was transported to Hartford Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 10:12 p.m.
Following the shooting, the four officers who deployed their weapons - one from Enfield, two from Manchester, and one from Wethersfield - surrendered their firearms. It is standard for an officer to relinquish his weapon and undergo an internal investigation when he fires in the line of duty regardless of context.
“Although it was ultimately determined that Mr. Soto possessed only a cellphone in his hands and not a firearm,” the investigation report concluded, “the evidence supports and corroborates that the officers who fired their weapons reasonably believed that Mr. Soto possessed a firearm and was going to fire the weapon.”
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