Officials probe officer shooting of cruiser theft suspect

Jan 12, 2023, 10:28 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2023, 1:28 pm
A Bristol police officer examines the scene where a suspect crashed a police cruiser into a restaur...

A Bristol police officer examines the scene where a suspect crashed a police cruiser into a restaurant, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Bristol, Conn. A Connecticut officer who opened fire on a man stealing the police cruiser, wounding him the leg minutes before he crashed the SUV into the deli, is under investigation for the deadly use of force, state officials said Friday.(Kellie Love/Hartford Courant via AP)

(Kellie Love/Hartford Courant via AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut officer who opened fire on a man stealing a police cruiser, wounding him in the leg minutes before the man crashed the SUV into a diner, is under investigation for deadly use of force, state officials said Friday.

The state inspector general’s office and state and local police are reviewing Thursday’s shooting by a Bristol officer. The office, which was created as part of a 2020 police accountability law, investigates all deadly use of force by police in Connecticut.

Body cam footage released Friday shows Officer Seth Petzing fire four shots at Jimmie Shoemaker-Gonzalez as Shoemaker-Gonzalez speeds away in the cruiser. Shoemaker-Gonzalez then drove more than 2 miles (3 kilometers) before crashing into Palma’s Diner, officials said.

The SUV ended up completely inside the restaurant. The Bristol diner was open at the time, but nobody inside was injured.

Police allege Shoemaker-Gonzalez had carjacked drivers earlier Thursday in Hartford and Farmington. Bristol officers spotted the vehicle that was stolen in Farmington, and Shoemaker-Gonzalez abandoned the car and ran away, authorities said.

During a foot chase, police said Shoemaker-Gonzalez got into the Bristol police cruiser. As he was driving away, Petzing opened fire at the driver’s side of the cruiser, officials said.

“We hope everyone is having a better day than we are,” a post on the diner’s Facebook page said. “Despite all the craziness, we are writing to let you know that everyone inside the diner at the time of the accident is safe despite being shaken up by all of this.”

Shoemaker-Gonzalez was taken to a hospital. His condition was not released. He was arraigned in absentia Friday, a court clerk said. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer who could respond to the police allegations.A judge set bail at $500,000 and continued the case to Jan. 27.

Court records show Shoemaker-Gonzalez has convictions for strangulation, assault, violating a protective order, driving while intoxicated and attempted burglary, and he served jail time, most recently last year.

Petzing was placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, under normal protocols, a Bristol police spokesperson said. Petzing did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The cruiser theft and shooting by Petzing came exactly three months after two Bristol officers, Lt. Dustin DeMonte and Sgt. Alex Hamzy, were shot to death in an ambush. A third officer shot in the attack, Alec Iurato, fatally shot the gunman, and survived.

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Officials probe officer shooting of cruiser theft suspect