Lawyers for Mike Alexander-Garcia, who was fatally shot by a West Hartford Police officer earlier this month, have obtained additional video from a witness that they said has led to further questions about the incident. [Updated, Aug. 30, 8 a.m.]
By Ronni Newton
Lawyers for the 34-year-old man killed by a West Hartford Police officer on Aug. 8 said during a virtual press conference Tuesday that they are continuing their own independent investigation of the matter.
The circumstances that led to Mike Alexander-Garcia’s death started when West Hartford officers, on the afternoon of Aug. 8, spotted and attempted to stop a blue Hyundai Elantra that had been reported as stolen four days earlier, according to a preliminary report by the state Office of the Inspector General that was accompanied by multiple videos, including the officers’ body camera video, dashcam video from several cruisers, and surveillance video from Town Fair Tire.
Peter Bowman of BBB Attorneys, said Tuesday that his firm’s investigation includes examining the timeline, and said that a video obtained by his firm that was taken by a customer at Town Fair Tire seems to indicate that efforts by police to resuscitate Alexander-Garcia after he was shot by Ofc. Andrew Teeter may not have begun until as long as seven minutes after the shooting.
Bowman said that initially there appeared to be a two-minute gap before CPR was started, which he said goes against police regulations that aid should be rendered immediately following a shooting, whether justified or not – a change “that was implemented after the incident involving George Floyd.”
Bowman said, however, “based upon the time and date stamp of the released body-worn camera,” the shooting occurred around 5:12 p.m. on Aug. 8. Metadata from the Town Fair Tire customer’s cellphone video indicates that the witness began recording the incident around 5:17 p.m., and does not show the police beginning CPR until approximately two minutes later, around 5:19 p.m., which would be roughly seven minutes after the shooting occurred.
Bowman said he has requested all data and other information that is currently in the possession of the Office of the Inspector General – including other video that could be used to piece together the rest of the timeline.
The witness video does show that responders extricated Alexander-Garcia from the vehicle that had crashed into a utility pole, and his shirt was removed. Additional video that has not been released may better indicate when medical care began.
Bowman also asked why it had not been publicly revealed by West Hartford whether or not Teeter had been placed on leave, which is standard procedure with incidents involving use of deadly force. CTNewsJunkie reported later Tuesday that they had received confirmation that Teeter, who sustained broken ribs and a head injury, is currently on workers’ compensation leave.
West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick confirmed to We-Ha.com on Wednesday morning that “Teeter is on administrative leave.”
Bowman also said Tuesday that none of the video evidence indicates that Alexander-Garcia was armed.
He also said an second autopsy was recently completed out of state – funded by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights Camp” – and Alexander-Garcia’s body has been returned to his family for burial. None of the autopsy results have yet been released.
Riddick did not provide further comment, but had issued the following statement on Aug. 11, following the release of the preliminary report and videos: “The West Hartford Police Department greatly appreciates and respects the obligation of the Inspector General’s Office to release this video footage to the public. This was a dangerous situation involving multiple attempted car jackings and I encourage the public and media to review all of the details of what the Inspector General’s Office has released. The West Hartford Police Department believes strongly in transparency, and in all facts being gathered and impartially evaluated. To that end, state law clearly places the Inspector General’s office as the lead investigative entity of this incident, and we will continue to fully cooperate with them as they conduct their work.”
When the incident began on Aug. 8, West Hartford Police officers were following a stolen Hyundai, which had been spotted near Westfarms and was traveling east on New Britain Avenue. Another officer used stop sticks to attempt to disable the vehicle near South Street, but the driver did not stop until after colliding with a silver BMW and then a blue Honda Pilot on New Britain Avenue, according to the report.
The two occupants of the Hyundai – identified by the Office of Inspector General’s Office as Lyle Solsbury, 47, and Alexander-Garcia, exited the vehicle and fled, officials said. West Hartford officers quickly apprehended Solsbury, who is a convicted felon with more than 30 arrests and charges pending in courts throughout Connecticut.
Alexander-Garcia eventually made his way to Town Fair Tire at 980 New Britain Ave., attempting to carjack two vehicles along the way, according to that preliminary report.
At Town Fair, Alexander-Garcia entered a Toyota RAV4 that was being worked on in one of the garage bays. An employee of the business tried to stop Alexander-Garcia and K-9 Officer Andrew Teeter entered the garage bay roughly 10 seconds after Alexander-Garcia got into the RAV4, surveillance video shows.
Following the attempts to of an employee to stop Alexander-Garcia, video shows Teeter launching his K-9 into the vehicle before entering it himself.
Ofc. Teeter and the K-9 continued to struggle with Alexander-Garcia, who then backed out of the bay, and drove out of the Town Fair Tire parking lot, in the process striking two vehicles, one of which was the West Hartford Police Department K-9 vehicle.
“As Alexander-Garcia continued to drive, Officer Teeter discharged his weapon multiple times striking Alexander-Garcia in the torso,” the Office of Inspector General’s press release states. “The Toyota crashed into a utility pole across the street from Town Fair Tire near the intersection of New Britain Avenue and Shield Street.”
The Connecticut Department of Correction’s website indicates Alexander-Garcia’s status as “escaped” from a halfway house in Hartford. He had been serving a 30-month sentence after being convicted of larceny and other charges.
At a press conference at West Hartford Town Hall on Aug. 14, Alexander-Garcia’s sister, Sheely Alexander-Garcia, spoke to her brother’s loving personality and artistic talents. She also acknowledged her brother wasn’t perfect, noting his struggles with addiction.
“He struggled with substance abuse and that was something that was difficult for our family,” she said. “The system has failed him and he could just never break the cycle but he wasn’t a violent person. … There’s no excuse his actions I’m not standing here defending his actions but he wasn’t a bad person. We want justice; we want the truth about what happened to Mike.”
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