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Community reacts to reinstatement of HPD officers after fatal shooting

HARTFORD -- Community members and organizations are reacting as two members of the Hartford police department are back on-duty.

Anger and confusion are the two common sentiments from community members who say they still can’t wrap their heads around why both officers involved in the shooting of Alphonso Zaporta are on-duty so soon.

Three shots signaled the fatal shooting of 41-year old Alphonso Zaporta last month.

Detective Zack Sherry fatally shot Zaporta three times after police say Zaporta reached for another officer’s weapon.

Detective Sherry and Officer Rocky were immediately placed on paid-administrative leave, now they are back on duty.

We caught up with one family member who couldn’t go on-camera, but says the family hasn’t even been able to grieve their loved one.

Zaporta’s Brother said, “We are very disappointed in having them back on the street without a full and thorough investigation… it’s a direct insult to Alphonso, his family and the community.”

Members of the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement saying:

“No one should die at the hands of police. Until, Connecticut has an independent oversight body to hold police accountable to the people they are supposed to serve, police violence will happen again.”

The Tolland’s State’s Attorney office is still investigating the incident.

Zaporta’s family say they question why the city hasn’t hired an independent investigator.

“There are questions about this particular State’s Attorney on how he can remain objective,” Zaporta’s brother said.

We took those questions to the Hartford Police Department who sent out a statement that said:

“The State’s Attorney’s independent investigation of last month’s shooting is ongoing, and we continue to support that investigation in every way we can.  The Hartford Police Department’s protocol for handling the work status of officers involved in a shooting comes from the Cintron v. Vaughn Stipulated Agreement, which goes back decades.  Following two weeks of paid leave, the detective who fired his weapon has returned to desk duty, and he will remain on desk duty until the investigation concludes or the Firearms Discharge Board of Inquiry votes to return him to full duty, which is the process set forth in the Stipulated Agreement. We had two options: either to keep the detective sitting at home on paid leave, or have him doing work on desk duty.”

Members of the NAACP say this is not acceptable and reacted, releasing their own statement. It read:

The Greater Hartford NAACP has called upon the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department to initiate an independent investigation into the incident and circumstances leading up to the fatal shooting as well as the City’s actions following the shooting. Branch President Maxien Robinson-Lewis, along with members of the Zaporta family, were recently given an opportunity to view all of the police body cam videos relating to the police encounter and fatal shooting, and they were deeply disturbed by what they saw. “There is absolutely nothing in the videos that demonstrates Mr. Zaporta posing any threat to the officers that justified his killing,” Robinson-Lewis said after viewing the videos. “The city’s decision to reinstate the officers before the conclusion of the state police investigation shows great disrespect to Mr. Zaporta’s family and to the legal process, and it is yet another example of the city’s insensitivity and lack of respect for the civil rights of the people in the minority community.”

The Zaporta family has retained legal counsel, who will be reviewing the videos over the next week to determine whether to proceed with legal action against the officers and the city.

The city’s actions and lack of transparency have left many unanswered questions, including:

  1. Why did the police initiate the stop of Mr. Zaporta?
  2. How did they know Mr. Zaporta was driving the vehicle, since he was not in his own vehicle?
  3. W­­hy did the police immediately release the passenger in the vehicle with Mr. Zaporta if, in fact, there was a weapon in the car?
  4. Why have the police refused to release the identity of the passenger or any statements from the passenger about whether there was a gun in the vehicle? Whether Mr. Zaporta posed any threat to the officers?
  5. Is there any relationship, professional or personal, between the passenger and either of the officers or any member of the Zaporta family?
  6. Most importantly, where is the evidence that Mr. Zaporta posed a threat that justified the shooting?

“Historically, the Black and Brown community of the Greater Hartford area has had a lack of trust in law enforcement,” Robinson-Lewis said. “The city’s actions thus far in the Zaporta case have only served to further erode what little trust remains.”

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