Family and community activists demand answers from Waterbury Police after shooting

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WATERBURY – Four days after a police involved shooting in Waterbury, community members met outside the police department to demand answers.

Organized by the group “People Against Police Brutality,” about two dozen people gathered to speak out against Thursday’s incident.

Around 4 p.m., Thursday, police said they attempted to stop a stolen vehicle at the intersection of Wood Street and Orange Street when driver, 18-year-old Ra’Shamel Rogers, attempted to flee the scene.

Police said Rogers hit a police car, telephone pole, and an officer who had exited his cruiser. That’s when an officer shot Rogers, causing him to stop the car.

Rogers was taken to Waterbury Hospital and later flown to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.

On Monday, at a press conference, Rogers family disputed that information calling it inaccurate.

According to his family, he was shot three times and had to undergo surgery to reconstruct bones and repair nerves in his shoulder. He is expected to be okay.

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.”

The group at the press conference said its pushing for an investigation into the officers involved.

Roger’s mother said she plans to take legal action.

The States Attorney office is investigating the incident along with the State Police Major Crimes Division.

David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut released a statement:

“The Waterbury Police Department’s lack of transparency in this case is another deeply troubling example of the need for strengthening Connecticut’s police accountability laws. The Waterbury community needs and deserves answers about what happened on Thursday night. The Milford State’s Attorney’s office must act quickly to ensure justice in this case, and the Waterbury Police Department should immediately provide the public with more information regarding this shooting, including the name of the officer involved and whether he or she is still on duty. Furthermore, we are calling on the Connecticut General Assembly to use this incident as a reminder to prioritize and pass meaningful police accountability and transparency legislation this year.

It has been four full days since Waterbury police shot Ra’Shamel Rogers. There is a compelling need for public information in a critical incident like this, yet community members still do not know enough about what happened on Thursday evening. Friends, family, and neighbors of a person who is shot by police deserve the full story, and all Waterbury residents deserve to know how police, who are supposed to serve them and who they entrust with extraordinary power, came to shoot Ra’Shamel Rogers.

At a local level, the Waterbury Police Department should immediately disclose which officer was involved and whether this employee is still on duty. In other police use of force investigations, we have seen members of other Connecticut police departments refuse to speak with investigators. We hope that Waterbury police officers will take a different route by quickly and openly providing the Milford State’s Attorney with the information it needs to investigate this shooting. Connecticut has made millions of dollars available for local police departments to purchase body cameras, yet Waterbury has not taken advantage of this opportunity for transparency. We further urge the Waterbury Police Department to adopt a mandatory body camera program for all of its officers, which likely would have been an effective tool for shedding light on this incident.

At a regional level, the Milford State’s Attorney’s office must quickly, comprehensively, and impartially uncover what happened to Ra’Shamel Rogers, make its report fully available to the public, and take action accordingly. If the Milford State’s Attorney finds the shooting to be justified, the public deserves to know why, so the Waterbury community can understand whether policies for use of force match public expectations, and whether the process for investigation and accountability is working. If the Milford State’s Attorney finds the shooting unjustified, we expect immediate action from prosecutors to secure justice for Ra’Shamel Rogers, and a thorough plan from the Waterbury Police Department to ensure that this does not happen again.

At a state level, the Connecticut General Assembly must pass additional police transparency and accountability legislation this year. It has been four days since Waterbury police shot Ra’Shamel Rogers. The public is still struggling to receive basic information, and there are no deadlines for when we can expect it. Furthermore, even if this investigation finds that this shooting was unjustified, there are no statewide safeguards to remove the officer involved from the Waterbury police department.

Right now, there are bills before the legislature that would improve police use of force investigations and better ensure accountability when these uses of force are unjustified. If passed, these bills would create strict deadlines for the Division of Criminal Justice to complete police use of force investigations and require the DCJ to fully release use of force investigative reports to the public. In addition, if the DCJ investigation determined that a shooting was unjustified, one of these proposals would require the police department to suspend the officer involved without pay, and to terminate his or her employment if the officer was convicted, pled guilty, or pled no contest to a crime related to that use of force.

Lack of police transparency erodes public trust in law enforcement. This incident, like far too many others in Connecticut’s recent past, shows the need for immediate, additional action to ensure fair, just, and wise policing in our state.”