Police officer seeks restraining order against father of teen shooting victim


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A suspended Hartford police officer charged with fatally shooting a city teenager is asking a judge to issue an order protecting him from the dead teen’s father.

An attorney for Robert Lawlor filed paperwork Friday in Hartford Superior Court requesting an order to prohibit Keith Thomas, 43, of Windsor from any contact with Lawlor, his wife and the attorney.

If granted, it could also ban Thomas from the courthouse where Lawlor is scheduled to face trial on a manslaughter charge in the case.

Thomas’s son, 18-year-old Jashon Bryant of Hartford, was fatally shot in 2005 and his cousin, Brandon Henry, was injured. Lawlor has said he opened fire after he believed he saw Bryant reaching for a gun in his vehicle.

Lawlor’s attorney, Michael Georgetti, filed a request Friday for a restraining order against Thomas, saying he presents an “imminent danger” to Lawlor and others involved in his defense.

He alleges Thomas has threatened Lawlor, engages him in “staredowns,” attempts to insult and provoke him, and has jeopardized his safety so much that Hartford police must provide escorts for Lawlor and his family.

Attorney Joseph Moniz, who represents Thomas, said that while Thomas has occasionally used strong words, he has never been physically threatening toward Lawlor.

“It’s really disturbing to be suggesting that the man is a threat simply because he’s there,” Moniz said. “Keith has done nothing to warrant this attack.”

Thomas was charged last year with intimidation and breach of peace after allegedly making racially tinged comments in court to Lawlor.

According to court records, Georgetti later contacted prosecutors and asked them not to prosecute the case. A judge allowed Thomas to enter a diversionary program and the case was dismissed, the Journal Inquirer newspaper of Manchester reported in Saturday’s editions.

Georgetti said his request for a restraining order is not an attempt to limit Thomas’ rights, but that he and the Lawlors are concerned for their safety.

“Our courts are open to the public and certainly the father of a deceased child should be allowed to observe legal proceedings involving the death of his son,” Georgetti wrote in his court filing.

“However, in our system of justice rights can be forfeited by one’s improper behavior. … Thomas has, by his behavior, forfeited his right to attend court proceedings,” Georgetti wrote.

Lawlor, a 17-year veteran of the Hartford Police Department, was working as part of an anti-gun task force on the night of the shootings in which Thomas’ son was killed. Bryant and Henry were sitting in a parked car when Lawlor ordered them to freeze, then fired as Henry put the car in gear and drove toward a federal agent with whom Lawlor was paired.

Lawlor says he saw Bryant reaching for a gun in the passenger seat, but a gun was not found. A grand jury investigation into the shooting concluded earlier this year that the shooting was not justified.

Lawlor is free on bond and has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case. He returns to court Aug. 9.

Information from: Journal Inquirer, http://www.journalinquirer.com

AP-ES-07-28-07 1842EDT