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Clerics meet with officials after police-involved shooting

April 20, 2019
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Rev. Boise Kimber, center, flanked by Hamden Acting Police Chief John Cappiello, left, and Hamden Mayor Curt Leng, right, addresses the media outside of the Hamden Government Center after a meeting between the town officials and local clergy concerning the recent shooting by a Hamden police officer, Friday, April 19, 2019 in Hamden, Conn.. (Arnold Gold/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut religious leaders met with government officials Friday to try to ease concerns after a shooting that involved police, wounded a woman and led to protests.

Local clerics met with Hamden Mayor Curt Leng and police officials, three days after a Hamden officer and a Yale University officer opened fire on a car in New Haven early Tuesday. A 22-year-old woman in the car, Stephanie Washington, was treated for injuries not considered life threatening, police said.

Several protests were held this week in New Haven and Hamden, including one Thursday night that drew several hundred people and led police to close several streets in New Haven. No violence or arrests were reported.

Demonstrators included Black Lives Matter activists and Yale University students upset at the actions of the officers. Both officers are black, as are the woman who was wounded and the car’s driver.

The Rev. Boise Kimber, senior pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church, said Friday that Hamden police agreed to implement urban trauma and de-escalation training for officers, as well as notify New Haven police when Hamden officers cross the city line.

“It was devastating to this community to see this kind of action and gunshots,” Kimber said. “I know this community is traumatized and the two individuals in the car are traumatized.”

Authorities said that Hamden officer Devin Eaton was investigating the attempted armed robbery of a newspaper delivery carrier at a Hamden gas station shortly before 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, and that Yale officer Terrance Pollack responded to a call to assist Eaton.

Police officials said the two officers stopped a car that matched the description of the vehicle reported to have been involved in the attempted robbery. Authorities said both officers opened fire when the car’s driver, Paul Witherspoon III, 21, abruptly got out of the vehicle.

Washington, Witherspoon’s girlfriend, was a passenger in the car and was shot, police said. She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where police said she remained in stable condition Friday.

Witherspoon was taken to the Hamden police department and later released. No charges have been filed.

Witherspoon’s uncle Rodney Williams attended the meeting with Hamden officials Friday and said there was no attempted robbery before the shooting. Williams said his nephew only argued with a man who cut in front of him in a line at the gas station.

Hamden’s acting police chief, John Cappiello, declined to comment on Williams’ statements.

State police are investigating the shooting. The two officers have been placed on leave pending the probe.

A state police spokesman said this week that no weapons were found in the car. State police said Friday that they applied for a search warrant for the car but had no additional information on the warrant.

Surveillance video shows one of the officers shooting several times at the car.

Witherspoon, who was not injured, told WTNH-TV he has seen a lot of videos of police-involved shootings and thought he was going to be killed.

“He was just ready to shoot,” he said of one of the officers. “My girlfriend was yelling like, ‘They shot me. They shot me. They shot me.’ I just never thought it would happen to me, especially here.”

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