"Treat My Nephew Like He Was White"

Protest at Hamden Mayor's Home Calls For Officer's Firing

Dave Mager
November 07, 2019 - 1:25 am

Having grown up on the New Haven side of the town line with Hamden, Rodney Williams says one thing hasn't changed since his arrival in 1978:

Police cruisers from mostly white Hamden frequently chasing cars carrying African Americans into mostly black and hispanic New Haven.

For Williams and his family, that dynamic struck home in April, when Hamden police officer Devin Eaton pulled over a car in New Haven. It was driven by Williams' nephew, Paul Witherspoon.

Erroneously believing that Witherspoon had a gun, Officer Eaton pumped 13 gunshots into that car, striking a passenger, Stephanie Washington, who was seriously hurt.

A Yale police officer on the scene also fired at the car.

Officer Eaton remains on unpaid leave, having pleaded not guilty to state charges in the shooting. 

Wednesday, Williams joined protestors outside the home of Hamden Mayor Curt Leng. They're calling for Eaton's immediate firing, and they feel the mayor hasn't done enough to achieve that goal. 

"Treat my nephew like he was white," Williams demanded of Leng (who was not in attendance), adding, "If my nephew was white, would that officer still be an officer? I doubt that." 

In an earlier conversation with WTIC, Mayor Leng said he understands the protestors' concerns, but the police disciplinary process must be completed. 

Leng says, "I have to defer and follow the law. If we want the right outcome and the right conclusion to come out of the situation, you have to take the time to go through the proper steps."

The Hamden police union contract calls for a disciplinary hearing to determine a possible recommendation of firing. In Eaton's case, that hearing could come later this month.

Williams and the protestors want that removal processs to be expedited, and they say they'll maintain their pressure campaign.