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21 Feb, 2013 17:23

Connecticut cops pay $3.5 million after killing unarmed man in SWAT raid

Connecticut cops pay $3.5 million after killing unarmed man in SWAT raid

Three-and-a-half million dollars will be paid out to the family of a Connecticut man who was killed in a poorly-executed SWAT raid nearly five years ago.

As part of a settlement in a case involving the 2008 death of 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan, five towns in Fairfield County will pool their money to compensate the victim’s family for an incident that also left another man seriously injured.

On May 18 of that year, law enforcement officials received a phone tip about drugs reported to be in the Easton, Connecticut home of Ronald Terebesi, who happened to be entertaining Mr. Guizan in his den that afternoon. Officers from the town of Easton, Monroe, Trumbull, Wilton and Darien all coordinated a raid to scoop up the drugs, but shortly after they entered the residence the officers became overwhelmed and a multiple of shots were mistakenly fired at the unarmed and unsuspecting men.

“It looked like the Russian army had approached,” neighbor Drew Clark. Recalls to a local NBC affiliate. “This was overkill.”

Clark could barely have been any more right. By the time the smoke cleared, Guizan was dead from six gunshot wounds and Terebesi barely escaped. Both men were found to be unarmed and investigators only uncovered a small amount of cocaine from the home.

"There is undisputed evidence Guizan and Terebesi were huddled in a corner when police shot," Gary Mastronardi, an attorney for the homeowner, tells the Connecticut Post. But even with all of the evidence there, it’s taken nearly half a decade to bring justice to the family. The five towns involved in the settlement have been negotiating heavily ever since last summer when a federal judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit and said he would bring the case to a jury to determine if the SWAT officers used unreasonable and excessive force during the raid. Now before the matter can go to court, the family of the deceased will receive $3.5 million, described by the Post as being perhaps the largest settlement ever made in the state over a police shooting. And while it might not be the guilty verdict that a jury might have returned, attorneys say it at least shows accountability.

"This is a clear admission of misconduct on their part," Mastronardi says.

In a statement presented on behalf of all five towns involved, Easton First Selectman Thomas Herrmann says, "While the defendants, police departments and officers from Darien, Easton, Trumbull, Monroe and Wilton maintain they were not responsible for the unfortunate death of Mr. Guizan, the insurers for the defendants, who will bear the full cost of the settlement, believed that it was best to resolve the matter rather than incur further attorneys' fees, which were anticipated to be significant.

"The defendants concurred, further believing it was important to facilitate the Guizan family being relieved of the combined burden of litigation."

A lawsuit filed against the town by Mr. Terebesi over allegations of emotional suffering and damages to his home is still pending.