NBC Connecticut Investigates has learned that Hartford Police Officer Taikwon Dudley drove the wrong way up I-91 in his patrol car during a pursuit in July, something law enforcement experts say should only be done in the most extreme circumstances. The wrong way driving comes two years after the City of Hartford settled a lawsuit involving the same officer.
In 2012, Dudley ran through a stoplight at the intersection of Albany Avenue and Woodland Street. He t-boned the car of Anthony Mansfield, who died a week later. Dudley was charged by his own department, and later acquitted by a jury. However, just two years ago the city of Hartford paid $2.9 million to settle a civil case brought by Mansfield’s children.
Fast forward to this summer.
On July 18, 2018, Dudley took part in a pursuit that began in Hartford and ended near the I-91/I-291 interchange in Windsor.
Police eventually arrested the suspect. But Mansfield’s family says it wasn’t only the suspect who put the public at risk. They are angry that Dudley was still driving a patrol car after causing the accident that killed Mansfield.
Now, Sherry and La-Tanya Mansfield are demanding action from the Hartford Police Department (HPD).
“Take him (Dudley) off the street, there has to be something else he could do at the department,” said Sherry Mansfield during an exclusive interview with NBC Connecticut Chief Investigative Reporter Len Besthoff.
Dudley admitted to police investigators that he followed the suspect who was driving up I-91.
Driving a police cruiser on the wrong way on the highway is a violation of HPD policy, something Dudley was cited for in an HPD Internal Affairs report.
We asked the Connecticut Police Academy, which trains officers all across the state, if that’s part of its curriculum.
“There’s always exceptions to everything, but during our training we teach officers not to go against traffic,” explained Instructor Jim Nemphos.
The internal affairs report on the incident added that Dudley and his partner were not truthful about what happened next when the two officers claimed they were “strictly trying to exit the highway.” According to the report, vehicle tracking data indicated they “continued to pursue the vehicle…contrary to what was reported.”
Dudley declined to comment on the pursuit, he says at the advice of his union. NBC Connecticut Investigates obtained an audio recording of the HPD Internal Affairs interview with him through a Freedom of Information request. In the audio recording, an investigator asks Dudley why he was driving the wrong way.
Investigator: “You went off 291. Were you still looking for his car? What was your reason for going all the way up to the route 291 exit?”
Dudley: “Cause we were trying to get off. Cause we were scared out of our minds to try to get off anywhere else or try to turn around in the middle of the highway.”
The question is, why, after Dudley got into an on-duty crash that led to a man’s death, was he allowed back on the road again?
“People have to be held accountable for their actions, regardless of what position, or job title, that they have,” La-Tanya Mansfield said.
Hartford Police Chief David Rosado declined an on camera interview but provided a statement, saying:
“When the allegations were made known to us we quickly opened up an investigation into it. The process is ongoing. We're looking into it. We will let the investigation run its course. When all the facts are known, we'll decide what the proper course of action is.”
The department adds that about two months after the wrong way incident in July, and after NBC Connecticut Investigates began asking questions about the incident, Dudley received a new assignment. He’s now off the street and working in the Hartford Police Department jail.
NBC Connecticut Investigates also reached out to Dudley’s partner that night, and the Hartford Police Union. Neither responded to our requests for comment.