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Officer involved fatal shooting was cleared in 2017 killing

January 8, 2021 GMT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut police officer cleared of wrongdoing in a 2017 fatal shooting was one of two law enforcement officers who fired their guns in another fatal shooting in Hartford this week, according to a prosecutor’s report released Friday.

New Britain officer Christopher Kiely and an FBI agent shot at Benicio Vasquez, 34, during an exchange of gunfire in the capital city’s North End on Wednesday, according to a preliminary report by New Haven State’s Attorney Patrick Griffin.

Vasquez, of Hartford, died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the chief medical examiner’s office. No law enforcement officers were injured.

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Griffin and federal officials are investigating the shooting and whether it was justified. The name of the FBI agent was not released under standard protocols for federal use-of-force investigations, Griffin said. The report also did not say which bullets fired by Kiely and the agent struck Vasquez.

Kiely was one of five officers whom another prosecutor ruled justified in a 2017 police shooting in New Britain that killed 20-year-old Zoe Dowdell, a rapper known as “Gangstalicious.”

Officials said officers were trying to pull over a car driven by Dowdell and opened fire when it accelerated toward them. Dowdell died and two teenagers in the car were injured. Dowdell’s family disputes that the shooting was justified.

A message seeking comment was left Friday for Kiely, who was placed on administrative duty pending the investigation under normal protocols.

The shootout in Hartford came as an FBI task force comprising federal and local officers were arresting another man with a history of illegally possessing firearms for violating the conditions of his release from prison, Griffin said. Details of what prompted the shootout were not released.

A pistol apparently fired by Vasquez was found at the scene, Griffin said.

Griffin said members of the task force were not wearing body cameras and there were not dashboard cameras in their cruisers.

A search of state and federal court records shows a Hartford resident named Benicio Vasquez with the same year of birth has a criminal history that includes drug dealing and money laundering and was recently on supervised release after serving a 15-month federal prison sentence for being a felon illegally possessing a handgun.