While the state’s manslaughter case against Hartford Police Officer Robert Lawlor is expected to begin on Nov. 20, lawyers for the two teens he shot, one fatally, filed a wrongful death and civil rights complaint Friday against the officer in U.S. District Court.
According to the lawsuit Lawlor and “rookie” ATF Agent Daniel Prather were conducting surveillance in Hartford’s Northend neighborhood on May 7, 2005 when the came across the parked car that Brandon Henry, 21, and Jashon Bryant, 18, were sitting in outside the Ideal Market on Main Street. The lawsuit says the two young men were there that night to use the convenience store when Lawlor in plain clothes with his gun drawn approached the vehicle from behind and fired five successive shots. Lawlor, an 18-year veteran of the department, would later allege Bryant, who was in the passenger seat, reached down for a gun. No gun was ever found. A grand jury investigation conducted by Waterbury State’s Attorney John Connelly found that after interviewing 48 witnesses and examining more than 200 exhibits it was impossible to justify the shooting. The grand jury found Lawlor, who is white, fired on the two black youth without justification. The lawsuit claims the city was negligent in that the task force of which Lawlor was a member was only two weeks old and had been deployed with “inadequate weapons and equipment, training and sense of purpose.” In addition the defendant police officer, “had been demoted from detective to officer in 2002, for reasons including overzealousness in law enforcement and failure to adhere to rules and obey authority and although certain key members of the United State’s District Attorney’s Office were against his joining the Gun Task Force, he was nonetheless placed on it.” Bryant’s father is one of the three plaintiff’s in the case and is being represented by Jefferson Jelly. Henry, who was shot, but survived is being represented by A. Paul Spinella and David Jaffe of Brown, Paindiris, and Scott, LLP.