HAMDEN, CT (WFSB) – A police officer is under arrest, and now his attorney is speaking out.
Since last spring, protestors and activists had been calling for criminal charges in response to the shooting of an unarmed couple.
Hamden officer Devin Eaton was charged in the shooting on Monday.
Eaton’s attorney says police work is not an easy job to begin with and says the arrest has the potential to make it that much harder going forward.
“He’s very distraught. He feels badly for the families affected by this as well. It’s a horrendously upsetting sense of circumstances,” said Greg Cerritelli, defense attorney for Eaton.
Eaton, who has been off the job for six months, is now facing charges after crossing into New Haven back in mid-April and firing off 13 shots at a car he believed was involved in an attempted armed robbery.
“Police officers have to make split second decisions based on information known to them at that time, and this was a six month investigation and our courts have said police officers should not be judged with 20/20 hindsight, and I think that’s what happens in cases like this,” Cerritelli said.
Cerritelli, who is a former police officer himself, is representing Eaton. He says Eaton’s arrest sends a dangerous message, one that officers need to be 100 percent right, 100 percent of the time or they risk facing charges.
“If police officers hesitate to act, often times may end up dead,” Cerritelli said.
Fortunately, in this case no one died, but Stephanie Washington, a passenger in the car, was shot and injured.
Her boyfriend, the driver of the car, Paul Witherspoon told investigators he was following Eaton’s commands to get out of the car when the bullets started flying.
Eaton said he thought he saw a gun, but Witherspoon was unarmed.
“We have to have faith in the criminal justice system and how it works, and I think the ultimate development in this case will be fair and take into account all the parties’ interests,” said John DeCarlo, Ph.D. at University of New Haven.
John DeCarlo, a former Branford police chief with 35 years in the department, is the criminal justice chair at the University of New Haven.
He says going forward, the possibility of criminal charges could make it difficult for police departments to recruit and retain officers.
“I think that policing is always evolving. I think that this situation like so many others had to do with what we do as a university and that’s training and education, and we have to strive to make that better for the highest levels of professionalism in policing,” DeCarlo said.
Eaton is due back in court next week and he is on unpaid leave from the police department.
Hamden’s acting police chief is expected to make a recommendation on Eaton’s discipline and his job status within the next 30 days.