Housing evictions in CT are rarely violent, but there are no rules to track them
A light is being shed on housing evictions that take a violent turn after a Connecticut man was hurt by state police.
While violent evictions are rare, there are no laws in Connecticut to keep track of these instances.
Byron Harvey, a resident of Brooklyn, Connecticut, was shot and tased in his apartment by Connecticut State Police in May while officers were trying to remove him from his home.
Police body camera footage shows Harvey wielding a knife while sitting on a chair in the kitchen with a dog between his legs.
“I told you, you’re going to have to shoot me,” Harvey can be heard saying. “‘Cause if you don’t, I’m going to try to at least get one of yous.”
When police asked Harvey why he would want to attack them, he said, “So you’ll get rid of me.”
No criminal charges have been filed against Harvey. The Inspector General’s investigation is ongoing.
Police involvement in eviction proceedings isn’t uncommon. But it’s rare for eviction to result in violence.
State Marshals who have a housing execution signed by the court may physically remove tenants and their property from the home.
In his eight years on the job, State Marshal and President of the State Marshal Association of Connecticut, Brian Mezick, has taken part in a singular eviction in which the tenant was arrested.
“The police sometimes are reluctant to get involved in what they would consider to be a civil matter, and we have to let them know that it's ultimately a trespass matter,” Mezick said.
Evictions in Connecticut roughly returned to pre-pandemic levels after a COVID-19 era eviction moratorium was lifted in 2021.
However, it is difficult to quantify how many housing executions result in the physical removal of a resident from the home, or how many require police involvement.
State Marshals conduct executions, and there are no regulations in Connecticut’s General Statutes requiring marshals to report eviction resolutions to the courts or landlord.
The Connecticut Fair Housing Center reports evictions were filed against nearly 23,000 residential households in Connecticut last year. And courts issued executions in about 41% of those cases.
There is no real method or system in place to keep track of the number of evictions that require police involvement.
Mezick is assigned two or three housing executions a week throughout his jurisdiction of New Haven County. But, the number of removals conducted is often smaller than assigned.
“Not all of those are ultimately executed,” Mezick said. “Sometimes people move out, sometimes people get the notice and realize that they need to pack up and turn the apartment over … And let people know that the eviction is sort of getting real at this point, that there is a court order.”
Landlords can evict tenants for various reasons aside from nonpayment of rent. Some of the reasons for eviction include resistance to leave after a lease expires, proof of illegal activities such as prostitution or drug use, and neglect of duties like obeying health and fire codes.
Raphael Podolsky, an attorney with Connecticut Legal Services, said marshals should inform courts of the eviction outcome, but rarely do.
“In theory, the marshal should do what they call a return on every eviction and every execution,” Podolsky said. “They would bring the execution back, the paperwork, they would bring the execution back to the court and file a statement that says, you know, ‘On such and such a date, we did X, Y and Z.’”
If marshals arrive at the home and find a tenant gone, it still counts within the court system as an execution. Marshals should still fill out paperwork outlining the execution.
Violence in evictions is low, largely because landlords are prevented from attending an execution.
“They don't want the landlord to be there when they're carrying out an eviction, because that's exactly the kind of circumstances that could generate violence,” Podolsky said.
Most evictions don’t result in violence, but Byron Harvey was a patient at UMass Hospital for weeks.
The hospital was unable to confirm whether Harvey was still patient. Neither Harvey nor his family members could be reached for comment.