United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MARIA MARRERO, Administratrix for the Estate of Ernesto Morales, Plaintiff,
CITY OF HARTFORD, JAMES ROVELLA, KENNETH MEDINA, WILLIAM COTE, KENNETH LABBE, and ROBERT IOVANNA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR
W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an excessive force action by plaintiff Maria Marrero on
behalf of decedent, Ernesto Morales. Plaintiff's claims
include excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment
and the Connecticut Constitution (Counts I and IV); assault
and battery (Count II); reckless and wanton misconduct (Count
III); and municipal liability pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat.
§§ 52-557n and 7-465 (Count V). Defendants City of
Hartford, Chief of Police James Rovella, Officers Kenneth
Medina, William Cote, Kenneth Labbe, and Robert Iovanna have
moved for summary judgment on all counts. For the following
reasons, defendants' motions will be granted in part and
denied in part.
following background was gleaned from the parties'
statements of fact, affidavits, deposition transcripts, and
other exhibits, including video from a surveillance camera at
11, 2012, at 1:00 a.m., four Hartford police officers -
William Cote, Kenneth Medina, Kenneth Labbe, and Robert
Iovanna - were traveling east in a police cruiser on Park
Street when they observed a known drug dealer riding a
bicycle south on Wadsworth Street.
Labbe engaged the cyclist in a brief conversation about
operating the bike after dark without proper illumination.
The parties then continued on their respective ways.
officers returned to the area fifteen minutes later, where
they observed the same individual on foot. The officers
decided to search for the bicycle to see whether they could
locate any evidence of contraband, so they pulled into the
parking lot at 60 Wadsworth Street, where they spotted a
bicycle leaning against a fence to the south of the parking
Medina exited the police cruiser and walked toward the
bicycle. As he approached, he observed passengers in a parked
Honda station wagon. Medina stopped near the front passenger
quarter panel and said loudly to the occupants, “Let me
see your hands!” Officer Iovanna immediately exited the
right rear passenger side of the police cruiser and
approached the driver's side of the Honda. Officer Cote
also exited the cruiser, while Medina and Iovanna continued
to order the occupants of the Honda to show their hands.
driver of the Honda, Ernesto Morales, reached for something
in the cabin, then started the ignition. Officer Iovanna
yelled, “He's going to go!” As the Honda
began to proceed forward, Labbe drove the nose of the police
cruiser into the front left quarter panel of the Honda to
prevent it from leaving the parking area. At this point, the
three other officers had surrounded the Honda with their guns
drawn. The Honda then reversed briefly away from the police
cruiser before returning forward and to the right, around the
front of the cruiser into the parking lot.
Cote contends that he was standing in front of the police
cruiser, unprotected, as the Honda accelerated toward him,
but plaintiff maintains that Cote positioned himself
behind the nose of the cruiser, outside the forward
path of the Honda. A parking lot surveillance camera captured
the incident, but it was positioned at the far end of the
lot. The angle of the camera makes it difficult to pinpoint
Officer Cote's precise location relative to the Honda.
fired seven rounds into the Honda, killing Morales. As the
station wagon progressed across Cote's location, three
bullets entered the front windshield; two bullets entered the
driver's side window; and a sixth bullet entered through
the driver's side rear passenger window, striking the
Morales in the back. The ballistics of the seventh bullet are
unknown. Plaintiff contends that the trajectory reports
indicate that each of Cote's shots was fired from a
position outside the Honda's path of travel. Moreover,
plaintiff submits that Cote continued to discharge his weapon
after the station wagon had proceeded away from him.
Honda sped past Cote, across the parking lot, and through the
adjacent lawn where it crashed through the wall of a
July 11, 2012, James C. Rovella was employed by the City of
Hartford as the Interim Chief of ...