Attorneys and the family of a man shot and killed by a West Hartford police officer last week say he was unarmed and that the use of deadly force was unnecessary.
Body-camera video released on Friday showed the bloody end of a frenzied police chase in Connecticut, where a man trying to escape in a stolen car last week was attacked by a police dog, then killed by an officer inside the moving vehicle as he screamed for help.
The shooting of Mike Alexander-Garcia, 34, is under investigation by Connecticut’s Office of Inspector General, which released surveillance, dashboard and body-camera video from the scene.
The family’s attorney, Kenneth Krayeske, said Monday that Alexander-Garcia was unarmed and that the officer’s use of deadly force inside the vehicle was unnecessary.
“The decision by the police officer to enter the vehicle may have been a violation of police policy. It seems to us that the police officer created the situation that allowed him to justify a use of fatal, lethal force,” Krayeske said. “And we challenge that use of force.”
Alexander-Garcia struggled with substance abuse, “but he didn’t deserve to die,” said his sister, Sheelynashary Alexander-Garcia, during a press event outside West Hartford Town Hall.
“There’s no excuse for his actions. I’m not standing here defending his actions. But he wasn’t a bad person,” Sheelynashary Alexander-Garcia said. “He was a human being. He was loving and smart. He was a talented artist. And he wanted a family – one that he never had.”
The chaotic sequence of events that led to the shooting started when West Hartford police received word that a stolen Hyundai Elantra had been spotted near a mall, officials said.
Officers tried to stop the Elantra but it kept going and hit two cars, according to the inspector general’s preliminary report. The Hyundai became disabled. Two men got out and ran.
One of the men was apprehended, but the second, Alexander-Garcia, fled on foot and tried unsuccessfully to carjack two vehicles, authorities said.
The investigation into the event is ongoing. But police need to release more facts about what led up to the shooting including more details about the alleged failed carjackings, Krayeske said.
“We want to have all of the facts laid out for the public so that we can determine how we as a community stop this kind of excessive force,” Krayeske said.
Alexander-Garcia ran to an auto shop and got into a sport utility vehicle parked in a service bay, video shows.
Officer Andrew Teeter arrived moments later. Body-camera footage shows Teeter’s dog, a shepherd type, leaping into the SUV through the passenger-side window. Teeter opens the vehicle’s door and follows.
The video shows the dog biting Alexander-Garcia as he sits behind the steering wheel yelling “Help me!” and “Officer, please!”
Footage from other cameras shows the SUV back out of the garage, then turn, glance off a parked police cruiser and a tree, and start driving.
Teeter yells “Don’t do it!” and “I’m going to shoot you!” Then he fires several shots into Alexander-Garcia’s back, roughly 15 seconds after the SUV began to move.
The SUV crashed into a utility pole across the street, the inspector general’s report said.
The frantic footage was broadcast on television stations across Connecticut, but Sheelynashary Alexander-Garcia said she wasn’t aware the footage was going to be released publicly.
“We had no warning that it would be shared,” Sheelynashary Alexander-Garcia said.
Teeter suffered a broken rib and cuts on his head, the inspector general said. The dog was not injured.
West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor said in a statement that she was confident the police department would work with state authorities to ensure a “comprehensive and thorough investigation.”
Police Chief Vernon Riddick said his department “believes strongly in transparency, and in all facts being gathered and impartially evaluated.”
Riddick said the department would cooperate with investigators.
Connecticut Public’s Ashad Hajela, Patrick Skahill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.