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Report finds Meriden officer was justified in 2021 shooting

Officials said officer Erik Simonson had reason to believe that a suspect had 'imminent intent' on shooting him while Meriden police assisted in an arrest.
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Police car with blue lights on the crime scene in traffic urban environment.

MERIDEN, Conn. — A Meriden officer was justified in his use-of-force in February 2021, an inspector general's report said Friday.

Inspector General Robert Devlin said officer Erik Simonson reasonably believed that suspect Kenneth Strothers had the intent to shoot and harm him. 

The shooting happened February 12, 2021, when West Hartford officers responded to the Flamingo Inn Motel on North Broad Street in Meriden. 

West Hartford had issued a warrant for the 24-year-old Strothers and learned someone matching his description was staying at the motel. 

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Officials said that Meriden police joined West Hartford in surveying the motel and saw Strothers leaving one of the rooms. Strothers reportedly saw officers and ran across North Board Street to Access Storage.

According to the report, Simonson was leading the chase when he saw Strothers run behind a red 2010 Chevrolet Equinox.

The report said while at the SUV, Strothers yelled to Simonson, “I got a gun.” He then held an item wrapped in a white T-shirt. After a second or two, Strothers appeared to pull the slide back on the gun that was still wrapped in the tee shirt. According to the report, when Simonson saw Strothers pointing the firearm at him, he fired his handgun at Strothers once, striking him in the lower abdomen.

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First responders rushed Strothers to the hospital to be treated for his injuries. The report said a gun was found under Strothers when officers at the scene attended to him but it unloaded.

According to the inspector's report, Strothers was at the hospital two weeks prior with suicide ideation in the context of drug use.

Strothers told the staff at Hartford Hospital that he was trying to get the cops to help him to commit suicide, the report said.

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The report concluded that Simonson was justified in the shooting. 

Simonson at the time was a plain-clothes detective with the Meriden Police Department and was not wearing a body camera.  

Devlin recommended in the report that even if the cameras are not normally worn, detectives should wear them while assisting in a serious felony arrest given the potential for police use of deadly force in such a situation. 

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Jennifer Glatz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jglatz@fox61.com.  

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