The family of a man shot and killed by West Hartford police last week said that the shooting did not appear to be justified.
Standing outside West Hartford Town Hall lawyers for the family of Mike Alexander-Garcia also called on the department to preserve and share evidence of their own investigation.
“The use of deadly force in this situation was unnecessary and irresponsible,” Kenneth Krayeske, a lawyer with BBB Attorneys, said.
Neither West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor or Police Chief Vernon Riddick responded to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Alexander-Garcia, 34, died on Aug. 8 during an investigation into a stolen car. According to Inspector General Robert Devlin, with the Division of Criminal Justice, West Hartford police were trying to stop a stolen Hyundai Elantra on New Britain Avenue.
Click here to watch the bodycam footage provided by the Office of the Inspector General.
The Elantra collided with another vehicle and became disabled, and Alexander-Garcia and Lyle Solbsury fled the scene.
Police were able to catch and arrest Solsbury, but weren’t able to locate Alexander-Garcia until he was seen entering a Toyota RAV4 at Town Fair Tire on New Britain Avenue.
West Hartford police said Alexander-Garcia tried to carjack two other vehicles, but Ken Krayeske, the family’s attorney, said Monday that he wants to see the evidence to support that claim.
West Hartford police officer Alexander Teeter also got into the vehicle trying to stop Alexander-Garcia. He deployed his police canine, as well.
Alexander-Garcia backed out of a service bay and struck two vehicles, despite Teeter and the canine being in the vehicle with him. Teeter then fired into the vehicle multiple times — Krayeske said Monday Alexander-Garcia was struck three times — causing Alexander-Garcia to crash into a utility pole.
He was pronounced dead at 5:53 p.m., roughly an hour after the initial call.
His sister, Sheely Nashar Alexander-Garcia, said he was not armed and was not a violent person.
“I’m not standing here defending his actions, but he wasn’t a bad person,” she said. “We want justice, we want the truth about what happened to Mike.”
She also described Alexander-Garcia as a loving, talented person who struggled with substance abuse throughout his life.
“The system failed him and he could never break the cycle,” she said.
Alexander-Garcia was living in a halfway house in Hartford and expressed interest in getting a commercial driver’s license as a way to get his life turned around.
Sheely Nashar Alexander-Garcia said she saw videos capturing her brother’s death on the news, and questioned why police shot him.
“He was begging the officer to stop repeatedly,” she said. “Why didn’t he stop?”
Krayeske was more critical, saying the video seemed to show the officer violating the department’s policies. Robert Devlin, who is investigating, released video from Teeter’s body camera, dashboard cameras in three cruisers and Town Fair Tire’s surveillance system.
“It seems to us that the police officer created the situation that allowed him to justify using a fatal use of force,” Krayeske said.
He said Teeter should not have entered the vehicle or deployed his canine. He also said Teeter never used his TASER or attempted to disable the vehicle with stop sticks or other devices.
Krayeske also noted that body camera video captured Mike Alexander-Garcia asking Teeter several times not to shoot him. Teeter warned Alexander-Garcia “I’m going to shoot you,” but is never heard giving a command or order.
“How is he supposed to prevent being shot if the officer didn’t tell him what to do,” he said.
Riddick issued a statement last week saying the incident was a “dangerous situation involving multiple attempted carjackings,” and he urged people to wait for Devlin’s report before making their own conclusions.
Cantor said in the statement that the town and the department will cooperate with Devlin.
Krayeske and Peter Billings, a founding attorney at BBB, asked that the department cooperate with their independent investigation as well.
The firm has hired two experts in police tactics and is working on a request for additional records, including dispatch logs and radio communications.
Billings said Teeter seemed to violate several department policies, as laid out by Krayeske, but the firm wanted to conduct its investigation before deciding whether to file a lawsuit.
“We want to get all the information that’s available, we want to let the investigation play out,” he said.
Krayeske also said he wants the investigation to uncover ways to prevent similar shootings in the future.
“The deaths of people like Mike — people from Puerto Rico, people who are Black, people who are Brown — must stop at the hands of police,” he said.
Corrie Betts, president of the NAACP’s Greater Hartford branch, was also at Monday’s press conference to show support.
He said he and the NAACP’s Connecticut chapter also want to be a part of conversations on how to prevent shootings by police officers.
“We never really know the whole story, so to just have a life lost is just heartbreaking,” Betts said.