05/12/2006

Conn. chase death 'self-inflicted'

DANIEL TEPFER dtepfer@ctpost.com 

Copyright 2006 MediaNews Group, Inc.
All Rights Reserved 

BRIDGEPORT -- A city man killed last year as he led a city police officer on a foot chase through Marina Village, died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, not from shots fired by police, according to a report issued Thursday.

Raylyn "Ray Ray" George, 24, died from a gunshot wound to the back of his head on Aug. 25 in the city's South End, according to the nine-page report released by State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict.

"The precise mechanism of Mr. George's death remains a matter of conjecture," Benedict said. "What is known is that it occurred as he was fleeing police and, likely, attempting to scale a 4-foot-high fence, while holding a stolen, locked and loaded handgun in his right hand. Consequently, there is no evidence that any peace officer's actions were inappropriate." State Police conducted the investigation that led to the report's findings.

George's death nine months ago set off a massive protest and march through city streets by black residents, who claimed they were being singled out for violence by the police. The home of one Marina Village family was firebombed the following day because of rumors that the residents had talked to police.

Burton Weinstein, who represents the George family, said he was "astonished" by the report and planned to ask the family for permission to request an FBI investigation.

"I'm as baffled as everyone else, and I believe there is more than ample basis to have an examination done by the FBI," he said.

According to the report, shortly after 3 p.m. on Aug. 25, police got a tip that several men, all carrying firearms, were hanging out around Building 23 in Marina Village. Members of the Police Department's Tactical Narcotics Team went to the building.

George, his hands in the air, was pursued by Officer Luis Batista, a 22-year veteran of the force, the report said. At Park Terrace, George stopped, pulled a handgun from his waistband and threw it on the ground. But as Batista approached him, George retrieved the gun and aimed it at the officer. Batista fired three times at George as George ran out of sight.

As Batista was looking for George he heard the sounds of gunshots coming from a back yard. When he reached the yard he found George on the ground, bleeding from a head wound, his back against a chain-link fence. A semi-automatic handgun was on the ground beside him.

According to an autopsy, George died as a result of a gunshot wound to the back of his head, slightly above his right ear. He also had a bullet wound above his right kneecap.

Both bullets, which were fired at close range, matched the gun found next to George's body, a 40-caliber semi-automatic handgun stolen in a home burglary three week earlier, the report said.

A neighbor told investigators of hearing gunshots and looking out a window to see a black man, with labored breath, sitting against the chain-link fence with a black handgun "kind of in his right hand." The neighbor saw a police officer approach the wounded man and kick the gun away, the report said. The prosecutor concluded, based on the state police investigation, interviews with witnesses and forensic examinations that no police officer fired a weapon that caused any injury to George.

"The conduct of Mr. George was strongly indicative of a desperate desire not to be apprehended with a stolen firearm," Benedict said in his report.

George had a lengthy criminal record and six weeks before his death had completed a 45-month prison sentence for a robbery conviction.

"Clearly Mr. George did everything he could to avoid capture, to the point of attempting to scale a 4-foot-high fence while holding a locked and loaded handgun." 
 
May 12, 2006

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