Police: Passenger fatally shoots driver in West Hartford

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – A driver was fatally shot by a female passenger as he drove on Prospect Avenue Wednesday night, police said.

Officers were dispatched to the accident and found a car through a fence on 27 Park Road, on the Prospect Avenue side of the property.  The driver, 23-year-old Jose Mendez was found shot and transported to an area hospital and later pronounced dead.

“There was some 911 calls and we’re reviewing those tapes. The 911 calls were from Hartford and West Hartford. It came in as an accident.That’s originally how we got the call,” said Lt. Ted Stoneburner, West Hartford Police.

The female passenger, 27-year-old Angela Grasso-Cunha, of Plainville, was taken to police headquarters, where police say was cooperating with their investigation.

According to court documents, a woman called 911 seconds after the shooting saying:

“My name is Angela and I just shot someone on Prospect Ave.”

When officers arrived on scene, Grasso-Cunha was sitting on the sidewalk covered in what appeared to be blood and detectives found a gun on the passenger floor.

According to court documents, Mendez was driving to Wendy’s to pick up food, with Grasso-Cunha in the passenger’s seat. It goes on to say when Mendez turned his head, Grasso-Cunha grabbed her purse and retrieved her pistol, firing it one time at Mendez’s head.

It goes on to say that Grasso-Cunha told officers she feared for her life and believed Jose was going to kill her and her family.  Grosso admitting that in the moments just prior to shooting, there had been no immediate threat or danger posed to her by Mendez and no weapon was displayed.

In the courtroom, Grasso-Cunha’s attorney arguing the case of self defense.

“I think that she has a valid self-defense. And there’s some information that still available not only to the court but to the state into the police,” said Walter Hussey, Grasso-Cunha’s attorney.

2014 04 10 west hartford shooting 01 Police: Passenger fatally shoots driver in West Hartford

The car crashed into a fence about 6:30 p.m. near the intersection with Park Road. Grasso-Cunha was not injured, police said.

Grasso-Cunha was charged with Manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm.


Her bond was raised from $50,000 to $750,000 when she was in Hartford Superior court on Thursday.

Several members of Mendez’s family were in court and upset with how low they believed the original bond was. They say that Mendez and Grasso-Cunha were dating.

Grasso-Cunha works as a bail bondsman for Capital Bonds.

LINK: Read the police affidavit

The judge said Mendez was unarmed.

Prospect Avenue was closed between Park Road and I-84. A major crimes unit is on scene and the road is expected to be closed for some time as the investigation continues.

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