Hartford, CT – The Connecticut State’s Attorney’s Office has released bodycam footage that captured the moment a convicted felon stole a Hartford police officer’s duty weapon during a brawl on a congested interstate on-ramp (video below).
The incident began at approximately 9:15 p.m. on July 26, when Hartford police attempted to stop a vehicle being driven by 41-year-old Alphonso Zaporta, the Hartford Courant reported.
“It was more than just a traffic stop, it was also part of an investigation into gun-related activity that happened earlier in the month,” Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody noted.
During the earlier incident, Zaporta allegedly fired multiple rounds from a moving vehicle on Lawrence Street.
He refused to pull over when police spotted him near Park Terrace and Russ Street on July 26, and led officers on a brief pursuit onto the Interstate 84 West on-ramp near Capitol Avenue, New England Public Radio reported.
Zaporta ended up getting stuck in snarled traffic, and proceeded to ram into another motorist’s vehicle in an attempt to escape.
Bodycam footage showed the officers as they rushed towards the wanted felon, who promptly flung the driver’s door open and lunged at one of the officers.
Officer Rocky Last attempted to yank the combative suspect out of the car, and managed to briefly get him into a “headlock,” the Hartford Courant reported.
As Detective Zack Sherry grabbed on to Zaporta’s right arm, Officer Last suddenly yelled out that the suspect had gained control of his duty weapon.
“He’s got my gun!” he yelled.
“Rock – he’s got your gun,” another officer alerted just seconds later.
One officer ran to the passenger side of the suspect’s vehicle, and warned him that he was going to be shot, the video showed.
Meanwhile, another officer dragged Zaporta out of the vehicle by his legs.
The armed felon finally dropped the gun after Det. Sherry opened fire, fatally shooting Zaporta, the Hartford Courant reported.
Bodycam footage showed the weapon lying next to Zaporta’s right hand.
Investigators also located a fully-loaded, stolen handgun lying on the driver’s side floorboard of the suspect’s vehicle.
Subsequent ballistic testing showed a “potential link” between the stolen gun and the spent shell casings from the earlier drive-by shooting, the Hartford Courant reported.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said that it was “clear our officers’ lives were at risk” during the violent struggle.
“Tactics-wise, that was a vehicle that was actively moving and had already backed into another vehicle. It was a congested on-ramp,” Chief Thody noted. “They deployed the technology they had. They did what they could do at that point to subdue the car, to stop the car from moving. The next step is getting the driver out of the car.”
Det. Sherry and Officer Last have both been placed on paid administrative leave for at least the next two weeks while the investigation into the officer-involved shooting continues.
Bronin said that the State’s Attorney’s Office released the bodycam footage as quickly as possible.
“In a situation like this, we think it’s important to show the public as much as we can and provide the most transparency as possible,” the mayor added.
But Zaporta’s mother, Olivia Richard, said the officers had “no reason” to use deadly force against her son, who was wanted on multiple outstanding warrants, the Hartford Courant reported.
“There was no reason for them to shoot him three times,” Richard said during a Sunday night vigil.
She claimed that police edited the video that was released to the public.
“You did not show the videos I saw,” Richard alleged. “Those are not what you released on TV. You cut it and you edit it…and my son has been judged by people who do not know my son.”
Despite video evidence that showed a firearm lying next to Zaporta’s hand, Richard said she does not believe he was armed.
“There is no video on the planet that you showed me where I can see my son with a gun,” she claimed. “My son has a history, but that history does not justify you to get up and go out and shoot my son.”
Zaporta’s criminal history dated back to the 1990’s, and included juvenile convictions of assault and burglary.
He was convicted of larceny, multiple assaults, possession of narcotics, and two probation violations in 1996, and served nine years in prison.
The convicted felon was released onto an 11-and-one-half-year parole sentence in October of 2005, but was arrested on a new breach of peace offense within a year.
Zaporta was again released from prison in March of 2007, with just three months of his sentence remaining.
Within two months, he was back in jail for violating his community supervision, and spent the last month of his sentence in prison.
Later in 2007, Zaporta was convicted of first-degree burglary with a deadly weapon.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with seven of those years suspended.
Zaporta was again arrested for violating his probation in 2016, WFSB reported.
In January, a warrant was issued for his arrest due to charges of felony second-degree strangulation, second-degree breach of peace, and second-degree threatening, according to the Hartford Courant.
In June, an additional warrant was issued for charges of second-degree breach of peace, second-degree threatening, and harassment.
Those warrants were all active at the time of his encounter with police.
“My son was killed like a dog and it hurts, and I want answers,” Richard said, according to the Hartford Courant. “I need answers, because my son was a good person despite his criminal background or despite what they’re gonna try to paint him and make it look like. There was no reason to kill him like that.”
You can watch bodycam footage of the officers’ altercation with the armed convicted felon in the video below. WARNING - Graphic Content: