Devin Eaton

Family, Supporters of Shooting Victim React to Former Officer's Sentence

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Rodney Williams is still haunted by the night his nephew was the target of a police shooting.

He said the frustration is made worse by the sentence handed down on Friday - former Hamden cop Devin Eaton was given a five-year suspended sentence with three years of probation.

“We can’t even believe the outcome of this,” Williams said. “Like, even if you’re looking at 18 months, 18 months is not that much time but it’s something. But when you’re looking at probation, it’s very disrespectful.”

His nephew, Paul Witherspoon, was driving with Stephanie Washington back in April 2019. The pair were unarmed. Eaton believed the car was connected with a robbery and followed it to New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood.

Yale University police officer Terrance Pollock arrived on scene and 13 shots were fired at the car. Washington was hit three times, once in the forehead.

“I believe that the whole community, even the state, has to be upset with how this judge operated with a Black young lady,” said Rev. Boise Kimber of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.

Kimber and Williams spoke at a news conference Wednesday on Eaton’s sentencing. Williams and his family are frustrated because he said Witherspoon also received a five-year sentence and served 18 months for unrelated weapon possession charges in 2021. No one was injured in that case.

Williams said he’s angry with the way the court system is set up and laws need to be reviewed.

“If we shot a cop, and we didn’t kill him, the truth is this - we wouldn’t get probation,” Williams said.

Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett said she thought jail time would have been fair given that the assault charge included indifference to human life.

“That’s a pretty startling phrase to use about somebody who’s supposed to be a public servant,” Garrett said.

Hamden is named in a civil case filed by Washington against the town, Yale University and Eaton. Garrett said she was unable to comment, and that town attorneys and hired outside attorneys are handling the case.

NBC Connecticut spoke to Washington’s attorney Win Smith, who said they were appalled at the sentencing. He said the judgement is “mindboggling” given the circumstances of the case.

He gave this this statement:

“The result of the criminal case is extremely unfortunate, and we certainly hope things change in the civil case, but nothing up to this point has led us to believe that it will.”

Smith said the civil case was stalled because of the ongoing criminal trial against Eaton. He also said the multiple defendants were delaying the proceedings.

Garrett denied those claims, saying the hold up was because of the criminal trial. She said the courts set a date of June 13 for the next meeting and reiterated that hired attorneys and the town attorneys were handling the case.

Eaton’s attorney Greg Cerritelli also sent a statement regarding the reaction to his client’s sentence:

"A police officer’s job is incredibly difficult and has become more difficult in the past few years. The public demands police to act with 100% precision, 100% of the time. The reality is however that they are human and sometimes mistakes are made. Devin Eaton is not Derek Chauvin. He’s not a rouge police officer who inflicted gratuitous violence on people. Officer Eaton confronted what he believed was a suspect in an armed robbery. He was required to make a split-second decision on whether or not the use of deadly force was justified. 

Officer Eaton has served the people of Hamden and previously the people of New Haven with commitment and pride. It is indeed unfortunate his career ended in this manner."

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