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State police arrest man shot by New London cop in ice truck incident in 2011

By Sasha Goldstein

Publication: theday.com

Published May 10. 2012 4:00PM   Updated May 11. 2012 12:27AM
Officer was fired for using excessive force; suspect was left paralyzed

New London — State police on Thursday arrested Curtis Cunningham, a New Haven man who was shot by a city police officer after he allegedly stole and crashed an ice truck in August.

Cunningham, 28, was charged with first-degree larceny, third-degree criminal mischief and "various motor vehicle charges in connection with the stolen truck," state police said in a release Thursday.

State police — who were requested to investigate the incident by New London State's Attorney Michael L. Regan — submitted an arrest warrant for Cunningham after completing the investigation into the Aug. 24 incident.

Cunningham was processed and released on $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in New London Superior Court on May 23.

"For his alleged conduct, he's already paid some severe consequences," said Michael Dolan, one of Cunningham's attorneys, on Thursday.

Cunningham was paralyzed from the waist down after the incident and has filed a lawsuit against the city and former Officer Thomas Northup, who shot Cunningham four times after Cunningham crashed the truck.

Joel Faxon, the New Haven attorney who filed the lawsuit on Cunningham's behalf, said Thursday he was "pressing forward with our case."

Northup, who had been with the department for four years, was fired March 22 after an internal report determined he had violated department policy on use of excessive and unreasonable force. It was determined Northup made a premature and unauthorized decision to use deadly force.

Regan, the state's attorney, decided last month to not prosecute Northup for the shooting.

"It is the conclusion of the undersigned that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred,'' Regan wrote in his report, released April 20. "Accordingly, no further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice."

According to the report, Northup fired his weapon five times, hitting Cunningham four times — once in each arm and twice in the lower back. Cunningham was shot while standing in the overturned cab of the ice truck after allegedly stealing the truck and crashing it at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Bank Street.

Northup told the state investigator that he believed Cunningham had a weapon when he saw Cunningham turn toward him "with his shirt protruding in an outline that Officer Northup believed could have been a gun."

Northup yelled for Cunningham to "drop the weapon," but Cunningham continued turning toward the officer and reaching toward his waistline, the report states.

Cunningham tested positive for PCP after being taken to the hospital, and he admitted to medical personnel that he had "a long history of using PCP and other illegal street drugs,'' according to the report.

According to court records, Cunningham has four criminal convictions dating back to 2005. Two months before he allegedly stole and crashed the ice truck, Cunningham was arrested on drug charges in West Haven. He is due in court to face those charges on May 31.

s.goldstein@theday.com

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