A bail bond agent has been charged with first degree manslaughter, accused of shooting her boyfriend in the car as he was driving on Prospect Avenue near the Hartford/West Hartford line on Wednesday night.
Police found Jose Mendez, 23, of Hartford, after a crash near Prospect Avenue and Kane Street around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The car went through a fence on the Prospect Avenue side of the property at 27 Park Road.
Police said they received several 911 calls, including one from a woman who was upset and crying.
"My name is Angela and I just shot somebody on Prospect Avenue," she said, in a 9-1-1 call released by Hartford Police.
She was heard screaming and crying before hanging up.
Dispatchers attempted to call back multiple times in the released calls but it went to voice mail or someone would answer and then immediately hang up.
In the calls released, an officer says at one point, "Yeah, he's bleeding out a lot," and "We have the suspect here right now."
Mendez had been shot in the head, according to police and was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Angela Grasso-Cunha, 27, of Plainville, a surety bail bond agent with Capitol Bail Bonds in Hartford, is accused of pulling the trigger, according to West Hartford Police.
Grasso-Cunha's defense team said in court that she was acting in self-defense.
According to court paperwork. Grasso-Cunha told police that Mendez kidnapped her and she shot him in self-defense.
Grasso-Cunha told police she ran into Mendez at a bar in Hartford three weeks earlier, after not having seen him since they were teenagers, and they started dating, according to police.
On April 8, Mendez took Grasso-Cunha to see his sister and then accused her of flirting with his sibling. Back in the car, they argued and Mendez threw her phone out the window, she told police.
On April 9, Mendez accused Grasso-Cunha of cheating and told her she had to give him $600 or he would kill her and her family, according to court documents.
Grasso-Cunha told police she tried to get the money by cashing a check, but the bank was closed.
At that point, Mendez also accused her of cheating and giving him a sexually transmitted disease. He grabbed the back of her head, slammed it into the center console and spit on her, she told police.
He also brought her to a clinic in Bloomfield to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and said he’d kill her children if she ran, Grasso-Cunha told police.
By the time they got there, the clinic was closed for the day, so they drove back to Hartford and Mendez threatened to kill Grasso-Cunha's family and make her watch, she told police.
While driving on Park Street, Mendez turned to look toward Wendy's and Grasso-Cunha took the opportunity to reach for her purse, grabbed her gun and fire once at Mendez’s head, she told police.
Mendez slumped over, bleeding, and the car continued south on Prospect Avenue until Grasso-Cunha grabbed the wheel and steered the car off the road and into a fence, police said.
She told authorities that Mendez posed no immediate threat or danger, but she feared for her life as well as her family members’ lives and saw this as her only opportunity to stop him from following through on his threats, according to court documents.
One officer reported hearing Grasso-Cunha say, “He beat me, what did you expect?” as she hugged her knees, rocked back and forth and crying.
Mendez's family said they did not know what led up to the shooting.
"He was a good person. He was a great uncle, a great brother, a great friend," Chelly Vazquez, the Mendez family spokesperson, said.
Mendez and Grasso-Cunha had been dating for about a month and they last saw him on Monday, they said.
According to court records, Mendez was a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal past including burglary, assault, and a violation of a criminal protective order.
Grasso-Cunha was charged with first degree manslaughter and was released on $50,000 bond.
"There is a good possibility that it was an actual self-defense claim and not manslaughter. And I don't think they would set a bond this low if they didn't have some doubts and questions, defense attorney Walter Hussey said.
During a hearing on Thursday morning, bond was raised to $750,000.
Grasso-Cunha posted bond and was released, but she is required to wear an ankle monitor. She is due back in court in two weeks.