By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — A borough police sergeant is back on patrol after the Office of the Inspector General’s investigation cleared him in the firing of three shots at a suspect’s fleeing car last year.
“Based on my investigation of this incident, the factual findings supported by that investigation and the applicable law, I conclude that Sgt. Nicholas Kehoss’ use of deadly force was objectively reasonable and therefore justified,” State Inspector General Robert J. Devlin Jr. stated.
Naugatuck Detective Kevin Zainc pulled over Roznovsky Machado, 25, of Waterbury, on the Route 8 north on-ramp at Maple Street at about 8 p.m. Sept. 14, 2020, after a suspected hand-to-hand drug sale involving Machado, who was driving an orange Dodge Charger with Ohio license plates. Zainc previously stated in Machado’s arrest warrant he recognized Machado, the only one in the car, from past criminal cases. Zainc stated Machado was known to sell heroin, fentanyl and crack, and had a suspended driver’s license.
Sgt. Nicholas Kehoss, an 11-year member of the force, responded to provide backup and eventually parked his police cruiser diagonally in front of the Charger.
At first, Machado cooperated with Zainc, according to footage from body cameras worn by Zainc and Kehoss. Machado provided his name but said he didn’t have a license.
Machado denied making a drug deal when Zainc told him that’s why he was pulled over.
Zainc stated Machado’s demeanor changed and thought Machado would try to flee.
As Zainc walked back to his SUV after speaking with Machado, he appeared to warn Kehoss that Machado would take off, according to the video. Kehoss then pulled his SUV in front of the Charger to block it.
As Kehoss got out of the SUV, Machado put the car in gear.
Zainc could be heard yelling, “Don’t do it. Don’t do it,” as Machado rammed into the SUV, which then struck Kehoss.
Kehoss fired three shots at the Charger but did not hit Machado.
Both officers pursued the Charger onto Route 8, but weren’t able to catch up to the vehicle.
Kehoss suffered heavy bruising to his left side and was treated at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury. He was placed on administrative assignment, which is routine when officers fire their sidearm during an encounter.
Police located the Charger, which was rented by Machado’s mother, behind a multifamily home at 41 Vine St. in Waterbury the next morning. State police seized the car as evidence.
Machado turned himself in later that week. Police charged him with attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault, engaging an officer in a pursuit and assaulting an officer, among other charges.
The state police Western District Major Crime Squad, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Forensic Science Laboratory, Naugatuck Police Department and Fairfield Judicial District State’s Attorney Joseph T. Corradino provided assistance to the investigation, according to the report.
The investigation found Zainc’s body camera recorded the Charger moving backward and then accelerating into Kehoss’ police vehicle. Kehoss’ body camera recorded him being knocked down and the Charger driving at him.
A firearms analysis determined Kehoss’ gun fired the three recovered cartridge casings and the Charger sustained three bullet strikes that penetrated the vehicle’s front windshield, right front door and right rear window, according to the report.
Under state law, determination of an officer’s use of deadly force as reasonable requires considerations that include: Did the officer believe he was facing actual or imminent use of deadly force? and Did the officer sincerely believe the use of deadly force was necessary?
Kehoss believed he was facing death or serious physical injury from Machado’s accelerating vehicle, the report states.
Deputy Police Chief Colin McAllister declined to comment on the report, but said Kehoss is back at work.
”He’s assigned to regular duty as a patrol sergeant,” McAllister said.