Officer-involved shooting sparks protests

Brooke Reilly

Members of the Hamden and New Haven communities are calling for two police officers to be fired after they opened fire at a vehicle in New Haven last week.

At approximately 4:20 a.m. on April 16, Hamden Police Officer Devin Eaton and Yale University Police Officer Terrance Pollock were investigating an armed robbery when they approached a parked vehicle by Dixwell Avenue and Argyle Street. They believed this vehicle was involved with the incident and fired shots.

Paul Witherspoon, 21, was the driver of the vehicle and Stephanie Washington, 22, was in the passenger seat of the targeted vehicle. Both of them are of African American descent. Washington was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, while Witherspoon was not injured.

The Connecticut State Police Department is still investigating the situation. Officer Eaton’s body camera footage was released, and police say there is no evidence of a gun found in the targeted vehicle. Q30 News reached out to the Connecticut State Police, but they did not have any further comments other than what was already released.

Multiple protests have taken place since the shooting with people speaking out against police violence toward people of color.

Quinnipiac seniors, Antoine Campbell and Jack Onofrio, were among those who attended a protest in New Haven last week.

“When my roommate had told me that there was a shooting involving Hamden police, I was kind of shocked, so I really wanted to see what was going on,” Campbell said. “We each did our research on it, and we decided to drive down and see what people were saying and maybe see what the chief was saying, things like that.”

Campbell described the protest that they went to as being very tame.

“It was actually kind of like cohesive because the people were protesting the police, and then the same police officers that they were protesting were also there to protect them,” Campbell said. “Normally, I feel like police would try to disperse this kind of thing, but they said they wanted to march to Hamden, and the police officers said ‘okay.’ They got in their cars and drove slowly in front of the protest line, so they could march all the way to Hamden if they pleased.”

Since the shooting took place in close proximity to Quinnipiac, Campbell and Onofrio wanted to recognize that this took place right in their community.

“It was just something that I’ve kind of seen on social media, everything that had been happening, I just thought that it’d be important to show up, kind of out of curiosity and to show support for the community,” Onofrio said. “I just feel like Quinnipiac doesn’t really get involved with the Greater New Haven community much, and that’s something I’d kind of like to see change.”

Onofrio said that he hopes to see more outreach between the police department, the mayor’s office in Hamden and the community.

As the situation continues to be investigated, more protests are breaking out. Officers Eaton and Pollock have been placed on leave pending the investigation.

On May 3, the Quinnipiac Student Government Association, African Caribbean Student Union and Black Student Union sent an email to the Quinnipiac community in response to the situation. They released a joint resolution and reminded the community about the importance of continuing conversations like this that may arise in the future.


Updated 11:45 a.m. May 3, 2019.