Metro

Family of veteran killed by Lynn police seeks federal probe

Yessenia Reynoso placed flowers at the grave of her brother, Denis Reynoso,  in the section of Pine Grove Cemetery for Iraq war veterans in Lynn on May 24.
John Blanding/Globe Staff
Yessenia Reynoso placed flowers at the grave of her brother, Denis Reynoso, in the section of Pine Grove Cemetery for Iraq war veterans in Lynn on May 24.

The family of an Iraq war veteran from Lynn who was shot and killed by a police officer last year asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the controversial shooting a day after Governor Deval Patrick honored the officer for bravery.

The sister of Denis Reynoso asked the federal agency’s civil rights division to independently review the circumstances of how the 30-year-old father was killed, after a bystander had alerted police officers that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yessenia Reynoso said her family was appalled by the governor’s decision to recognize the officer who shot her brother, and two other responding officers.

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“They made our family relive the whole thing,” she said of Wednesday’s ceremony. “You deserve an award when you save lives, not when you kill.”

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In the complaint filed Thursday, Yessenia Reynoso wrote: “The actions leading to his death seem to be caused by the lack of education and understanding by officers of the law and mentally ill.”

The family held a demonstration in September on the first anniversary of the shooting. Their civil-rights complaint was filed the day after Patrick awarded Lynn police officers John Bernard, Josh Hilton, and Paul Scali the state’s highest law-enforcement honor, the Trooper George L. Hanna Award for Bravery.

Hilton has been identified as the officer who shot and killed Reynoso.

The three officers had been nominated by Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, who has defended the officers.

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The state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said in a statement Friday that the Hanna Award recipients “are chosen by a nine-member Selection Committee in accordance with the program’s criteria that this award be an acknowledgment of acts performed in addition to an officer’s regular course of duty.”

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who investigated the September 2013 shooting, cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing. But Blodgett’s finding, announced in January, did little to resolve controversy surrounding the veteran’s death.

The police officers had responded to Reynoso’s home after reports that he had been screaming and acting strangely, and yelling “[expletive] kill people.’’ A mail carrier told the officers that Reynoso might have post-traumatic stress disorder. He had served in the US Army National Guard for eight years, including a tour in Iraq.

After the officers entered his home, Reynoso reportedly managed to grab Bernard’s gun from his holster and put it at Bernard’s head. He fired two shots during the ensuing struggle, barely missing the officers, according to Blodgett’s review.

Hilton warned both Reynoso and Bernard five times that he was going to shoot before he pulled the trigger, Blodgett’s report said.

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Blodgett found that Reynoso was able to gain control of the gun because Bernard’s holster was “somewhat worn” and missing a screw, which permitted the gun to be “easily removed with all safety devices engaged.”

‘You deserve an award when you save lives, not when you kill.’

Yessenia Reynoso, sister of veteran shot by police 

Reynoso’s 5-year-old son was in the living room during the confrontation.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@ globe.com.