NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) _ A state panel has ordered the New London Police Department to rehire an officer fired last year for shooting and critically injuring a man suspected of stealing a truck.
The Day of New London reports that the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration ordered police to rehire Officer Thomas Northup, who shot Curtis Cunningham, leaving him paralyzed, in August 2011. Cunningham was unarmed.
Northup was fired after police say he violated department policy regarding excessive and unreasonable force. He was found to have made a premature and unauthorized decision to use deadly force.
The mediation board said the city had failed to provide clear and convincing evidence it could fire Northup. It said the city did not present credible evidence to establish that Northup’s use of force was “not objectively reasonable or that it was excessive.”
“The fact remains that the city was unable to prove that Officer Northup knew that the suspect did not have a gun,” the decision said. “In the final analysis, all the city could prove was that Officer Northup’s belief was perhaps mistaken.”
The board said Northup should be compensated for lost pay.
Northup told investigators that Cunningham put his hands above his head as ordered but started lowering his hands and ignored his commands to keep his hands up. He said he then saw him put his hands in his right waistband and began turning toward him with what he believed was a gun, so the officer shot him.
Another officer at the scene said he saw Cunningham reach his hand into his waistband and also believed he was reaching for a gun. A third officer said Cunningham was cooperative and listening to Northup’s commands, but he then heard Northup yell at Cunningham to keep his hands visible and heard shots fired.
Cunningham, who was 27 at the time, said he didn’t know why police shot him and that he was high on PCP, according to a police report.
He has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Northup. He pleaded guilty in January to his involvement in the ice truck theft and was sentenced to one year in prison, suspended after three months served, and two years’ probation.
A prosecutor declined to file criminal charges last year against Northup.
Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com
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