Waterbury officer cleared of wrong doing in shooting of teen suspect back in March

WATERBURY -- The State's Attorney ruled Friday that officer McMahon, who shot 18-year-old Ra'Shamel Rogers back in March, has been cleared of any wrong doing.

The incident stemmed from March 9th,

According to an investigation completed and a report written by Ansonia-Milford State's Attorney, Kevin Lawlor, the incident unfolded when officers in a Waterbury police cruiser noticed a red Lexus, that had been reported stolen out of Greenwich.

Those officers activated their lights in trying to get the car to stop, but the driver ignored their commands and  sped away. The officers then ceased their pursuit for safety reasons, the report says.

Then, the driver of the stolen vehicle, 18-year-old Rashamel Rogers, nearly hit an officer doing extra duty roadwork, protecting an Eversource crew.

Officer James McMahon tried to intercept the driver near Orange and Wood Street, which is where Rogers put the Lexus into reverse and rammed into a Waterbury police vehicle and then a telephone pole.

That's when McMahon, with his weapon drawn, told Rogers to stop the vehicle and get out of the car.

Then, according to the state's attorney's report, the vehicle was put into drive by the operator, who "suddenly turned the steering wheel in the direction of Officer McMahon and accelerated forward and toward the officer."

That is when McMahon shot Rogers twice - once in the shoulder and once in the torso.

The report says, while at the hospital, "Mr. Rogers expressed remorse for the incident and told WPD Detective Shea “please tell the Officer I’m sorry I hit him.”  Rogers told State Police Detectives that he was “on the run” for a few weeks after he had cut off his juvenile probation bracelet. He also said he had “rented” the Lexus from a local drug dealer in exchange for crack cocaine and did not know the vehicle was stolen."

Rashamel Rogers mother, Shanna Rogers, told Fox 61 she's very disappointed in the decision. She claims that the officers involved in this incident lied to state police investigators.

The 18-year-old's father, Clinton Rogers, said his son is doing better health wise, but he still is not talking about the incident much.

Waterbury Deputy Police Chief, Fermando Spagnolo says Officer McMahon has been on desk duty since returning to work about a month after the incident. But, now that he has been cleared, he will return to regular duty.

His father, Clinton Rogers, expressed frustration over the lack of communication by police and the hospital. He said it took days before he and Ra’Shamel’s mother could see their son.

“All we wanted was information regarding the well-being of our child,” he said. “Our son who was shot by the Waterbury Police, we waited in the hospital, we traveled miles, we haven't eaten. What we’ve gone through is indescribable.”

See the full report here. 

The State's Attorney issued a report after a 5 month investigation regarding the use of force, saying the Officer McMahon was justified shooting Rogers due to the danger of the situation.

Shanna Rogers, Ra'Shamel's mother, said that she is "very disappointed" with the reports finding and conclusion. She said that the police officers involved "lied" to investigators and that the family is looking to move forward and is if the investigation "can be brough to a higher level."

Kerry Ellington of People Against Police Violence – a statewide advocacy and watchdog group tonight who is based in New Haven and says she disagrees with the findings of the State’s Attorney report issued today to the public on the Waterbury PD involved shooting of Rashamel Rogers– she says that “we’ve seen a pattern in Connecticut of State’s Attorneys investigations into police-involved shootings resulting in impunity of officers with unarmed citizens who are black and brown…”

She said that the hospital confirmed that Rogers was shot three times but the report says he was shot only twice. She said that disparity in fact points to the inaccuracy of the overall report. She also said there is dashcam video that was never mentioned or made available for view from the scene.

She said the officer who shot Rashamal is a rookie and that he was shot before he was able to get out of the vehicle. Ellington says that the officer claimed he was in fear of his life, yet continued towards the unarmed Rahamal with his gun extended. She said that the claim of being in “fear of life” is reason that is used by many officers across the country who end up being cleared in their use of deadly force.

The ACLU of Connecticut Executive Director David McGuire said in a statement:

“When the laws to hold police accountable to communities are no longer working, it is time for new laws. This incident and today’s report are the latest evidence that Connecticut needs statewide police reform.

The state’s attorney’s report leaves many unanswered questions about what happened when Waterbury police officer James McMahon shot Ra’Shamel Rogers. In the interest of transparency and public understanding, we call on prosecutors to immediately release the enhanced video footage of this entire incident. We call on the Waterbury Police Department to improve public safety and transparency by immediately adopting a mandatory body camera and dashboard camera program for all officers, with robust policies in place to protect civil liberties and the public interest. We encourage police departments statewide to advance public and police officer safety by restricting police car chases and prohibiting police from shooting at occupied vehicles, as other police departments have done throughout the country.

The public still does not know whether James McMahon was struck by the car that Ra’Shamel Rogers drove, whether McMahon’s shots caused Rogers to lose control of the vehicle, or whether Rogers was offered legal representation present when he spoke with police at the hospital. The few clear facts of this case demonstrate serious flaws in police training and policies, including a lack of training to avoid pursuing and approaching cars in ways that jeopardize police and bystanders’ safety.

Connecticut must dismantle barriers to police accountability by adopting independent oversight of police. Too many families have suffered losses and violence at the hands of police in Connecticut, only to be failed by our justice system in their quests for answers and accountability. This year alone, we have seen the Rogers family struggle for answers in Waterbury and the Bridgeport community fight for transparency while grieving 15-year-old Jayson Negron’s death at the hands of police. This summer, after a three-year wait, Jose Maldonado’s family saw prosecutors decline to seek justice in their loved one’s death at the hands of East Hartford police.

We will continue to work toward a future in which police accountability, transparency, and independent oversight are the norm and the public can have confidence in justice.”

Connecticut does not keep track of how many people are injured or die after encounters with police. Reporting from the Washington Post shows that at least nine people have died after being shot by police in Connecticut since 2015. Most recently, police in Bridgeport fatally shot and killed 15-year-old Jayson Negron; the state’s attorney has not yet released its preliminary investigative report in that case."