The Tolland State’s Attorney has determined that the use of force in a Hartford police shooting that killed a Windsor man was justified.
Hartford police shot and killed 41-year-old Alphonso Zaporta on July 26, 2019, after what began as an investigation into gun-related activity. Five officers were on scene when the shooting occurred and three of those officers had body cameras, which were recording.
In a report released Thursday, State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky concluded the officer who fired, identified as Detective Zack Sherry, was justified because he reasonably believed the use of deadly force was necessary to defend himself and others around him.
According to the report, Sherry said he fired because Zaporta had wrestled a gun from one of the other officers and had it in his hands, pointing it at an officer when he was pulled from the car.
“Hesitating could have been, and would likely have been, a fatal mistake for Detective Sherry," the report reads.
According to the report, officers were trying to stop Zaporta’s vehicle because he was a suspect in previous shooting investigations and had to outstanding warrants for his arrest in unrelated cases.
Police said when officers tried to stop Zaporta’s car, but he tried to flee. When police caught up with him on Interstate 84, it led to a struggle. Body camera footage released of the incident appears to show this struggle. Police said during the struggle, Zaporta gained control of one of the police officer's firearms, police said. In the video the officer can be heard shooting “he’s got my gun, he’s got my gun.”
A different police officer, identified as Sherry, then fired multiple rounds at Zaporta, striking him in the head. Zaporta died from his injuries.
Sherry's statement described the scene.
“When Zaporta was pulled from the vehicle I clearly observed that Zaporta had a firearm clutched in his hands. Zaporta was pointing or aiming the firearm directly towards Officer Last. Zaporta was facing away from me and landed on his elbows/forearms. In fear for my life and the lives of all the other officers and civilians in the zone of danger in the immediate area, I drew his firearm and fired three rounds in the direction of Zaporta,” Sherry’s statement read.
A passenger who was in the car with Zaporta during the incident told investigators that Zaporta was driving aggressively trying to get away from police and did not cooperate with officers.
“Alfonso starts screaming, ‘I’m ready to die, I’m ready to die’ and hops out yelling this,” the witness said. The witness said he got out of the car and followed police instructions to get on the ground, but could hear and see part of a struggle.
“From my point of view I can see through the vehicle because both front doors were open. I could tell that Alfonso was rustling through his car like he was looking for something but I couldn’t see what. While they are trying to get control of him, I could hear one of the officers yell, “he’s reaching for my gun.” Almost immediately after the police officer yelled that I heard one or two shots,” his statement reads.
At least one other witness told investigators that Zaporta had made comments that if he was stopped by police, he would run or fight back because he wanted to die.
The report also notes that a gun, later determined to have been reported stolen from Springfield, Massachusetts, was found on the driver’s side floor area of the car.
Hartford Interim Chief of Police Jason Thody released the following statement in response to the report:
“Regardless of the circumstances, a life was lost in this incident, and we extend our continued condolences to Mr. Zaporta’s family. Since this shooting occurred last July, the Hartford Police Department has fully cooperated with the State Police and the State’s Attorney’s office in their independent investigation, and I want to thank them for their expeditious and comprehensive report. Our obligation as police officers is to use force as a last resort. In this case, it is clear that our officers and those civilians present on the on-ramp that night were in imminent danger.”
To read the full report, click here.