On Tuesday, April 16, Stephanie Washington, 22, and Paul Witherspoon III, 21, were sitting in their car enjoying each other’s company, kissing and singing along to “Nothing In This World” by R&B Singers Avant and Keke Wyatt. Moments later, police opened fire on their vehicle without warning or provocation.
Now, residents of the city of Hamden, Conn. are seeking answers.
At 4:20 a.m., a gas station attendant reported that a black man with dreadlocks gad pulled a gun on a delivery man outside of the station, asking for money. The attendant at the Arch Street location gave police a license plate number, according to the New York Times.
After an alert for a red vehicle seen near the scene of an armed robbery of a newspaper delivery truck was put out by police, officers Devin Eaton and Terrance Pollock of the Hamden Police Department and the Yale University campus police force, responded to the alert and spotted the car.
When Witherspoon exited the red vehicle, both officers opened fire. Witherspoon was uninjured, but Washington was struck in the face.
“Twenty shots fired. Argyle street. With the car, with the car,” said Eaton of the Hamden Police Department is heard shouting. Pollock had approached from a different angle, and can be seen firing his weapon several times in a separate video.
In early statements to reporters, Connecticut state trooper Josue Dorelus said that Witherspoon “abruptly” left his car, though video directly disputes his version of events.
A default function captured the incident, as neither officer had their body cameras turned on. The officers, both black, have been placed on leave during the investigation by the State Police and the state attorney.
James Rovella, the commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said that Witherspoon appeared to be complying with police orders, though one hand was not readily visible, according to the New York Times.
“He already had his hand on the trigger and everything,” Mr. Witherspoon said in an interview with WTNH News 8. “Ready to shoot.”
Footage was released Tuesday after a wave of protests on Yale campus and the surrounding area were coupled with persistent calls for answers and accountability. Demonstrators have gathered frequently at the site of the shooting and outside of the home of Yale President Peter Salovey, who urged the Yale community to wait to draw conclusions until investigations had been completed.
“As we wait to learn more about this incident, let us treat each other with respect and decency, and with a sense of common purpose,” write Salovey.
Mike Dolan, an attorney representing Witherspoon, told reporters that his client had a verbal disagreement at the gas station and nothing more.
“My client did not hurt anybody,” he said. “He did not have a gun, he did not threaten anyone with a gun.”
According to a local NBC affiliate, Washington was released from the hospital on Wednesday, April 24.