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'I Only Got T-Shirts': Footage Shows New Haven Police Drawing Gun, Taser On Shoplifter

NHPD Taser
New Haven Independent
Body camera footage shows New Haven Police Officer Christian Carfora points his taser at a shoplifting suspect before brandishing his firearm.

Body camera footage released this week shows a New Haven, Connecticut, police officer pulling a gun and a taser on a Black man, who said he shoplifted clothes. The display of force happened on April 14, three days after a Minnesota police officer said she mistook her gun for a taser and fatally shot Daunte Wright. The following includes a description of an arrest that may be sensitive for some audience members.New Haven Police and the mayor annouced the rollout of a four-hour deescalation training on Monday. The next day, after requests from The New Haven Independent,the department released footage from the body camera of Officer Christian Carfora. It shows him chasing 50-year-old Robert Banks on foot through a Walmart parking lot to a blue Volvo.

"Get out of the car," Carfora orders, with his yellow taser in view.

The officer pulls the door open. Banks says, "I’m sorry! I only got T-shirts."

Then, Banks reaches into his pocket and his pants.

"What do you got there, bro?" Carfora asks. 

Carfora first aims at him with a taser in one hand, then his gun in the other. 

"Nothing!" Banks says with a strain in his voice. "I only got T-shirts," Banks repeats as he drops a bottle of juice and a clothing item.

New Haven Officer Display of Force
Credit YouTube / New Haven Independent
New Haven Independent
The officer points his taser and his firearm at Robert Banks in the parking lot of a Walmart.

Carfora orders him on the ground. Ultimately, Carfora pins down and arrests Banks as he cries out: "I'm sorry, Sir! Ah, it hurts!"

Audio blares from a news-talk program and makes it difficult to hear their dialogue. Carfora puts him in the back of a squad car.

As Banks sits in handcuffs, another officer tells him it was Banks's own fault the Walmart shoplifting incident escalated.

"If you had just stopped in there and just said ‘okay, I’ll give you the stuff back’ we would have handed you a summons, you would have walked away," the unidentified officer says, "But because of everything else that escalated, because of you trying to escape, and the actions that you took, you have to be processed."

"But I never seen, I never seen him behind me," Banks says.

"Would you please continue listening to me?” the officer goes on. 

The department has started a three-part review of what happened as part of a policy to look at any instance an officer displays force. Officer Carfora has not been placed on leave.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.