BRIDGEPORT -- Five years ago, a heavily armed special weapons and tactics team charged into a small ranch home in Easton -- guns drawn and flash grenades exploding -- and killed a Norwalk man who was quietly watching porn on TV in the den.
Now five towns will pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the victim's family.
In a joint statement, officials from Easton, Monroe, Trumbull, Wilton and Darien all maintained their police were not responsible for the death of Gonzalo Guizan that day, said the lawyer for the home's owner.
The settlement, believed to be the largest in the state for a police shooting, says otherwise.
"This is a clear admission of misconduct on their (the towns') part," said Gary Mastronardi, who represents the homeowner, Ronald Terebesi, who reportedly barely escaped with his life during the raid.
"There is undisputed evidence Guizan and Terebesi were huddled in a corner when police shot," Mastronardi said. "This is just the first of two shoes that have dropped."
Terebesi's lawsuit against the town for emotional suffering and damage to his house in the raid is pending.
The town had been under pressure to settle the case ever since a federal judge last summer refused to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling there was sufficient evidence for a jury to determine the police team used unreasonable and excessive force against Guizan and Terebesi. While the towns filed an appeal of that decision, they also began negotiating a settlement in the case.
Morgan Rueckert, the lawyer for the Guizan family, confirmed a deal had been reached, but would not comment.
Speaking for all the towns involved in the case, Easton First Selectman Thomas Herrmann said: "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."
The raid on Terebesi's home at 91 Dogwood Drive, Easton, on May 18, 2008, was organized by Solomon who, according to pretrial depositions, had been under pressure to do something about Terebesi, who was considered a blot on an otherwise prestine neighborhood.
Terebesi, who entertained exotic dancers at his home and was once found passed out in the house as a result of drug abuse, had been the subject of neighborhood meetings. The situation escalated when the boyfriend of one of the dancer's shot up Terebesi's house.
On the morning of May 18, a dancer called Easton police to say she had seen a small amount of drugs in Terebesi's home. The woman later admitted she had left the house after a dispute with him.
At about 2 p.m. members of the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team, dressed in body armor, left the Easton Emergency Medical Service offices after being warned by Solomon and others that Terbesi was armed and would most likely shoot at police.
Solomon and the team leaders drove off in sport-utility vehicles while the rest boarded their large armored transport, with several of the men standing on the transport's running boards.
As they rolled into the quiet neighborhood, residents either ran into their homes or let curiosity get the better of them. One woman followed the two snipers as they got off the transport and headed into the woods near Terebesi's house.
With a video camera rolling, the men lined up with Monroe Officer Michael Sweeney in the lead, the large metal shield held close to his chest. Right behind him was Trumbull Officer Brian Weir, his M4 assault rifle pointed over Sweeney's shoulder.
At that point, they began to count down. At "one" there was the sound of breaking glass and the explosions of flashbang grenades at the other side of the house. The back door was smashed open and the group went in, Weir yelling, "Police, warrant."
There was another explosion as a flashbang went off; Sweeney yelled "I'm hit, I'm hit," and then there was the sound of gunfire.
It was over in less than 16 seconds.
A lifeless Guizan, 33, lay on the floor with six gunshot wounds, one through his left hand that penetrated his chest, two shots to the abdomen, one in the left groin, one to the right knee and one to the right upper arm. Terebesi, who had been pinned by Sweeney, was handcuffed and dragged out of the house.
Team members searched the room and found two crack pipes and a tin containing a small amount of cocaine, but no guns.
Sweeney received his department's Office of the Year award for his part in the raid. In later interviews with State Police and in depositions, he claimed he fired at Guizan because he felt his life was in danger.
As Sweeney had entered Terebesi's home, the third flashbang had gone off. Debris from the explosion had hit him in the chest and foot, and he mistakenly thought someone in the house was shooting at him, reports said.
When he yelled that he had been hit, Weir, believing his comrade was under attack, fired one shot but didn't hit anyone.
Sweeney said later that he had taken three or four steps into the room and then looked to his right where he saw Terebesi and Guizan in a corner of the room.
He said he took two or three shuffle steps toward them. At that point, he said Terebesi and Guizan came toward him. Terebesi pushed and pulled on Sweeney's shield while Guizan grabbed at Sweeney's gun hand, he said, pulling it down.
Sweeney said he began to lose his grip on his pistol and began firing until he felt Guizan let go of his gun. According to the video, this whole confrontation would have occurred in about a second. Weir said later he saw no struggle between Sweeney and the two men.
During a deposition, Sweeney asked: "Why didn't we just knock on the door?"
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