Middletown cop justified in shooting man who attacked her with hammer

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A Middletown police detective was justified when she shot and wounded a man who attacked her with a hammer last year, the state's Office of the Inspector General said in a report issued Wednesday.

Detective Karli Travis fired her service weapon at Winston Tate during an incident on August 12, 2023, wounding him in the shoulder, hand and elbow, Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Andrew J. Slitt and Inspector General Robert Devlin wrote in the report.

Police had been summoned to the 100 block of Liberty Street in Middletown around 6:30 a.m. after a caller reported Tate was smashing glass in a driveway and screaming, the report said. When Travis arrived and confronted him, he charged at her and struck her with the hammer.

"Detective Travis reacted reasonably to defend herself. Accordingly, I conclude that under the circumstances presented, Detective Travis’ use of deadly force was justified," the report said.

A 30-second video clip from a local police detective's body camera released at the time shows Tate violently striking Travis with a hammer as she screams for him to stop before she fires several shots during an encounter outside his Liberty Street home early Saturday.

"Tate had rapidly closed the physical distance between them and was actively attacking the officer with a hammer, a weapon capable of causing serious physical injury," the report stated.

Tate can be heard in the video making loud garbled sounds as he continued the attack, which sent Travis' body camera flying to the ground, the footage shows. Travis pulled her gun out as Tate ran toward her, but doesn't appear to fire a shot until she was on the ground, the video indicates.

During an interview with Devlin's office, Travis said she was afraid that Tate would get hold of her gun. After knocking her to the ground, Tate "bent down over my back, wrapping his arms around both sides of my body," she said according to the report. "I had my firearm in my hands at this time, Tate’s hands were in the immediate area of my firearm. He was attempting to maneuver his hands in the area of my firearm as I attempted to protect my firearm by placing it close to my body in between my stomach and legs."

Just before she fired, Tate had both hands on each side of her firearm as she yelled, "stop!" the report said. "Tate was actively attempting to pull the
firearm out of my hands. My right hand remained on the grip of my firearm, and my left hand was on the muzzle, which I attempted to keep pointed away from our bodies as I was unsure whether Tate was simultaneously attempting to pull the trigger," she said in the report.

The attack stopped when a witness ran off his porch shouting profanities at Tate to distract him long enough for the detective to move to a safe area, the warrant said.

As more officers arrived, Tate again ignored their commands to put down the hammer and headed back inside his house, the warrant said. He came running out of a basement door wounded and was taken into custody, the report said.

Travis suffered a concussion, and injuries to several areas of her body including bruising and pain to her elbows, left shoulder and right hip.

Tate later was charged with attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and other counts after the incident. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

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