The family of an unarmed Hispanic man who was shot to death outside his mother’s Manchester home in April joined social justice advocates Monday in taking issue with a prosecutor's report that found the shooting was justified.
In his report Friday, Tolland State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky said four SWAT officers from the Capitol Region Emergency Services Team fired because they believed 27-year-old Jose “Jay” Soto had a weapon.
During a news conference Monday, Anthony Vazquez, the boyfriend of Soto’s mother, insisted the family had told officers over and over during an hours-long standoff on April 2 that there were no guns in the house. Soto had arrived just days before, with nothing but the clothes on his back, to quarantine with his family, he said.
“We told everybody that night, ‘There's no guns. If you guys want, I can go back in and I’ll get him out for you guys,'” Vazquez said. “They didn't allow us back in the house.”
Soto was shot when he burst through the front door pointing his hands at police in a “firing position” with an object they believed was a gun, Gendansky wrote. That object turned out to be a cellphone.
Members of the group “Justice for Jay" on Monday questioned why police were not wearing body cameras, did not record any of their phone negotiations with Soto and did not call any mental health experts to the scene despite knowing Soto had mental health issues.
The standoff and confrontation began when two parole officers went looking for Soto, who had disappeared from a halfway house in October 2019, while on parole after serving time for a 2013 robbery. They called in the CREST team when Soto refused to leave and began making threats, authorities said.
“If the protocols that allowed CREST to set up and bring in an armored vehicle and set it up right at the front door can be managed differently in the future, that would be great,” said the Rev. Joshua Pawelek, the minister of the local Unitarian Universalist church. “I think a lot of us are going to push for that kind of thing.”