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Body camera footage shows moments police opened fire in controversial Yale shooting

Police stopped a car near Yale University suspected of being involved in an attempted robbery and quickly opened fire. As investigations begin, police have released bodycam footage and 911 call audio.

Posted: Apr 24, 2019 9:30 AM
Updated: Apr 24, 2019 9:30 AM

Connecticut State Police released body camera footage on Tuesday showing the controversial police shooting near Yale University that has led to a week of protests.

The video from Hamden police officer Devin Eaton's body camera begins after the officer and a Yale Police officer stopped a red Honda Civic just after 4 a.m. on April 16 about a mile from Yale. Police had earlier received a 911 call saying that the driver, an African-American man, was involved in an attempted armed robbery, police said.

As Eaton approaches from behind the Honda, the driver of the vehicle opens the door and starts to get out, the footage shows. Eaton then runs to the right side of the car and fires his weapon, and the car's passenger-side window shatters, the video shows. The officer then runs to take shelter behind a parked vehicle and a row of garbage cans.

Stephanie Washington, a 22-year-old passenger in the car, was shot and suffered injuries that were not life threatening. The driver of the vehicle, Paul Witherspoon, was not injured in the shooting, police said.

Connecticut State Police released the officer's video, a 911 call, police dispatch audio and two angles of surveillance footage on Tuesday after a week of protests in New Haven in the wake of the shooting.

Neither Washington nor Witherspoon was arrested, and no gun was found in the car or any other locations, Connecticut State Police Commissioner James Rovella said. Rovella said police have interviewed Witherspoon but would not release that information yet.

There is no audio in the early parts of the body camera footage, and it is not clear from the video why the officer begins to shoot.

"There are indications that he was told to open the door, yes, or come out with his hands up," Rovella said.

"Which is what he appears to have done," a reporter said.

"It looks like it, but I can't tell you what's in one of the hands," Rovella responded.

Rovella also said the Yale officer was hit with a "projectile" from the Hamden officer during the incident. The Hamden officer fired 13 shots and the Yale officer fired three times, Rovella said.

The Yale Police officer, Terrance Pollock, was wearing a body camera but did not turn it on in time to capture video of the shooting.

Pollock is a 16-year veteran of the department and has been placed on leave until the investigation is completed, Yale University said. Hamden Police said officer Eaton was also placed on immediate administrative leave pending the state's investigation.

Reaction to the shooting

Witherspoon's uncle, Rodney Williams, called for the officers' firing.

"There is no city in this country that will allow officers to do that. I'm sure eventually they will be fired," he said. "No administrative leave, you're out of here, and you can sue me for wrongful termination, but you should be fired."

Michael Dolan, an attorney for Witherspoon, said his client did not have a weapon.

There never was a gun, my client maintains that he never attempted to rob anybody," he said."What I see is him showing his hands to police officers indicating that he is unarmed. What more this individual could have done, my client could have done, I don't know. "

Since the shooting, residents have marched in the streets and called for police accountability.

"Everyone is not a suspect. And that's how people feel," one 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."

"I am so deeply sorry to the individuals who were involved that this ever occurred, and also very thankful that the healing has begun," Hamden Mayor Curt Balzano Leng said on Twitter. "We will do better. We must do better."

Yale said it was fully cooperating in the investigation and was hopeful it will be resolved as quickly as possible.

Yale President Peter Salovey said the university will conduct its own investigation after the state police and State's Attorney's Office are finished. In the meantime, he said, Yale will engage with other members of the New Haven community.

"Our relief that the young woman who was shot did not suffer life-threatening injuries must not signal closure, but rather an opening: now is the time for all of us -- city residents, their elected leaders, community organizers and the Yale community -- to come together," Salovey said.

"Many members of the Yale and New Haven communities have reached out to me to express their concern," Salovey added. "I am grateful for your commitment to justice, and I share it. As we wait to learn more about this incident, let us treat each other with respect and decency, and with a sense of common purpose."

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