Five Connecticut Towns Settle Police Shooting Case for $3.5 Million

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SWAT_team_(4131372991)Five Connecticut towns will pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a man shot and killed by police during a raid on a home. Guizan v. Solomon, et al, 3:09-cv-01436 (D. Conn., Sep. 14, 2009). Heavily armed police officers entered a house to search for drugs, and while inside shot and killed an unarmed man. The house’s owner survived the assault and also filed suit, Terebesi v. Easton, et al, No. 3:09-cv-01457 (D. Conn., Sep. 15, 2009), claiming that police used unreasonable and excessive force and requesting damages for emotional distress and damage to his home.

A group of twenty-one police officers assaulted a home in Easton, Connecticut on May 18, 2008. They were members of the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team (SWERT), a SWAT force comprised of officers from Easton and four surrounding towns: Monroe, Trumbull, Wilton, and Darien. Police had received information that Ronald Terebesi, the house’s owner, and Gonzalo Guizan had drugs inside the house. They allegedly had no specific information that the two had any weapons inside. Easton’s then-Police Chief John Solomon planned and authorized the raid. The warrant listed two crack pipes and a supply of drugs sufficient only for personal use.

Police records indicated no prior criminal record for Terebesi, nor any history of threats or violent behavior. Nevertheless, the SWERT team used flash grenades before entering the house, then went in with their guns drawn. Monroe Officer Michael Sweeney shot Guizan six times, killing him. Terebesi was not injured during the raid. The officers found no guns, and only a small quantity of drugs. During the subsequent investigation of the raid, some of the SWERT members testified that they had information that Terebesi was armed, although other records may contradict this. Reports from the investigation allegedly showed that Guizan and Terebesi were huddled in a corner at the time Guizan was shot.