Author: Lindsey J. Bertomen
By Nicholas Rondinone The Hartford Courant
WATERBURY, Conn. — Bridgeport Police Officer James Boulay was justified in using deadly force when he shot 15-year-old Jayson Negron on May 9, according to a highly anticipated report released Friday by a state prosecutor.
More than 50 protesters with signs saying “Justice For Jayson” gathered on the steps of Superior Court in Waterbury on Friday afternoon awaiting the decision by Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt. She spoke to members of Jayson’s family inside the courthouse before she released the results of her investigation.
In the 29-page report, Platt wrote that Boulay “stated that he was in fear of being dragged under the Subaru being operated by Jayson Negron and discharged his weapon only after he had been struck by the vehicle and believed that he was about to be subjected to serious bodily harm. However, while there are differences among the witnesses, there are many factors that clearly support Officer Boulay’s statement.”
Platt said four witnesses — including a detective, two civilian witnesses and Julian Fyffe, the passenger inside of the Subaru with Jayson — backed Boulay’s claim that he fired his weapon after he had been struck by the Subaru, which had been reported stolen and was fleeing the wrong-way down a one-way street.
The passenger — not identified by name in the report — said that when Boulay opened the Subaru door, Jayson “reversed … hit him! Like, I seen it hit him! And from there. it’s like … I know what’s coming next. The gun came back up … POW!” the report said.
When Fyffe was asked, ‘Why do you think the cop was shooting?” he replied, “Cuz he got hit! … Cuz he’s [Jayson’s] hitting cars and stuff too. So he shot.”
Platt acknowledged that, in interviews with media, Fyffe made comments that contradicted his statements to police, but she also said that when she asked him to clear up the inconsistencies, Fyffe did not respond.
Jayson’s family, shaken by Platt’s decision, huddled outside the courthouse Friday after their meeting with Platt. Several were loudly sobbing, while others were holding back tears.
“We are feeling all kinds of pain right now,” Justice for Jayson organizer Jeannia Fu said through tears after talking with Jayson’s family. “The state’s attorney has completely exonerated James Boulay. But we are going to keep fighting this and everyone in Connecticut can and should stand with us.”
Organizers said they will push for the case to be reopened with the state’s Criminal Justice Commission, which appoints state’s attorneys. They had been said throughout the day that they expected Boulay to be cleared.
“This investigation … has been a sham from the start,” Fu said.
Jayson’s family, including sister Jazmarie Melendez, a vocal member of Justice for Jayson, left with little comment. One member of the family walked off shouting: “[expletive] the police.”
Jayson was fatally shot by Boulay near the Walgreens on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport on May 9. In the aftermath of the shooting, state police assumed the criminal investigation and Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane assigned the use-of-force case to Platt.
Boulay has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, Bridgeport officials said. He had been on the force less than a year when he shot Jayson. Community groups have been urging the city’s police commission to remove Boulay from the force.
State Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, on Friday criticized Platt’s decision, calling it a “disheartening and another strike against faith in a system that many believe is broken and needs fixing.”
Rosario said “there have been too many questionable police-civilian outcomes across the country, and working on increased transparency and different approaches to interaction will increase safety for everyone. We need to start a process and real conversation that includes accountability, law enforcement, the public, and legislation if need be — we need to address this pervasive nationwide issue now.”
He urged people who were demonstrating “to show your solidarity to Jayson’s family by not engaging in violent protests, instead show your support with peaceful actions that will honor his memory.”
The ACLU of Connecticut also was critical of Platt’s ruling.
“Maureen Platt’s decision not to press charges against Bridgeport police officer James Boulay is part of a pattern of police not being held accountable when they hurt, kill, and discriminate against Black and brown adults and children in Connecticut and across the country,” said Executive Director David McGuire, in a statement. “The state’s unjustifiable delay in releasing video footage of the shooting is also the latest example of Connecticut police and prosecutors ignoring public demands for transparency after police kill.”
Family members have demanded that Platt release video footage that captured the interaction that led to Jayson’s death, but nothing has yet been released.
According to Platt’s report, Jayson was driving the Subaru — reported stolen in Shelton — when Bridgeport officers attempted to stop the car on Fairfield Avenue. Fleeing the wrong way down the street, the Subaru hit and then became trapped by other cars, Pratt wrote in her report, and that is when Boulay got out of a police car and went after the vehicle.
The Subaru accelerated and Boulay started to run after it, Pratt wrote. Once he got to the car, Boulay told investigators, he fired his weapon at the back tire in an attempt to stop it.
He opened the door and tried to pull Jayson out of the vehicle. Platt wrote that Jayson refused to get out of the Subaru despite commands to do so.
With Boulay in between the open door and the inside of the vehicle, Platt wrote, Jayson again attempted to flee, putting the Subaru in reverse and stepping on the gas.
When the car went backwards, the open door hit Boulay, Platt wrote. Boulay became trapped at that point between the door, the inside of the Subaru, a Honda driven by a witness and a police car, the report says.
Trying to keep his feet, Boulay tried to grab onto something inside the Subaru, while still demanding that Jayson get out of the vehicle, Pratt wrote.
Boulay felt he was about to lose his footing and get dragged under the vehicle, according to Platt.
“It was at this time, and for this reason, it appears that the fatal shots were fired,” the report said. Investigators said Boulay fired his .45-caliber service weapon five times during the incident. Jayson suffered four gunshot wounds in the chest, abdomen and arms.
According to a timeline provided by Platt, this all happened in under a minute.
Boulay suffered injuries that included bruising on his left side and a cut to his leg, Pratt said.
Within a week of Jayson’s death, a relative posted a video on social media he said shows the moments immediately after Jayson was shot. It later was used as evidence in Platt’s investigation.
The video shows an individual, presumed to be Jayson, handcuffed on the ground next to the open driver’s side door of a car. The person is briefly out of view of the camera, and when seen again, the position of the person’s head has changed from facing right to facing left.
Sirens were blaring and people were yelling in the background throughout the brief clip. One city officer bends down to touch the victim’s back and then stands near him. The clip ends with an officer again bending down to touch the victim.
The video immediately caused controversy when Bridgeport Police Chief A.J. Perez said Jayson had been shot in the head, according to family. Family and community organizers have said this is just one of the inconsistencies with what Perez told the public.
Platt addressed the video in her report saying that it “appears to show [Jayson] alive, lying on the pavement and handcuffed after being shot by Officer Boulay” and that postings online had said Bridgeport officers had failed to get Jayson medical assistance in a timely fashion.
According to a timeline in Platt’s report, the estimated time in which the video was shot was between 5:02 p.m., when Jayson was taken into custody, and 5:10 p.m., when the first paramedic arrived.
“It should also be noted it appears that medical assistance was called for within twelve seconds of the report of ‘shots fired,’” she wrote. “Between the time of the shooting and the arrival of the first paramedic approximately eight minutes later, police called for medical assistance no fewer than five times repeatedly asking that such help be expedited.“
On Friday night Bridgeport Police Chief A.J. Perez and the city’s mayor Joe Ganim, who have both been the targets of criticism in the case, issued statement’s extending their condolences to the Negron family.
Perez said, “This is a very difficult time for the community and for my department. This was a tragic event where a police officer made a split-second decision. I want to express my deepest sympathies to Jayson Negron’s family and to the community as we work through this terrible incident.I am committed to working with our local and state leaders to build bridges with all of our citizens as we go through this difficult healing process.”
Ganim said, “… I stand in solidarity with the community in peaceful and constructive means to express our feelings and emotions through this difficult healing process. … We will continue to work with leaders in the community and other elected officials to find opportunities to bring people together and support our youth.”
Courant staff writer Sandra Gomez-Aceves contributed to this report.
©2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)