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August 26, 2005 - New Haven Register (CT)

Family Wants Answers After Man's Death In Swat Raid

By Robert Varley, Register Staff

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Since his 23-year-old son, Anthony, was laid to rest Aug. 13, Andrew Diotaiuto has returned repeatedly to his grave at North Haven's All Saints Cemetery.

He sometimes makes two or three trips a day from his home in East Haven.

Burying a child is always painful, but the last moments of his son's life are especially troubling.

On Aug. 5, Anthony Diotaiuto was shot to death by a SWAT team from the Sunrise, Fla., Police Department during a dawn narcotics raid in the home he shared and helped buy with his mother, Marlene Whittier.

According to police, he was found with about 2 ounces of marijuana, plastic bags and a weight scale.

"Why did they do this to my boy?" is the question on Andrew Diotaiuto's mind, according to his sister, Marie Notarino of Branford.

Both parents were too distraught to comment on their son's death.

"We had a good boy and now he's decomposing in a grave and we don't know why," Notarino said.

Sunrise police Lt. Robert Voss said the homicide department was still investigating the case, which will be presented to a grand jury for review, as is standard in all fatal police shootings in Florida.

"We're asking for people to keep an open mind and wait for the facts to come in before coming to a conclusion about what happened in the house." Voss said.

Voss said police had a court-authorized search warrant based on surveillance and a controlled narcotics purchase from the house.

Officers entered the residence and confronted Diotaiuto in the living room. He was shot after fleeing to a bedroom and arming himself with a loaded semiautomatic handgun, Voss said.

Diotaiuto had a concealed weapons permit.

"It was his choice not to follow orders and to retrieve a weapon," Voss said.

While Voss wouldn't say how many times Diotaiuto was shot, Florida news media have widely reported it to be 10 times.

Voss said Diotaiuto had a juvenile arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Florida.

Notarino said she believes her nephew was frightened from his sleep, terrorized by people breaking in, and was hiding in his closet when the SWAT team arrived Aug. 5.

"I doubt he knew who it was," she said. "Who did ( the police ) think they were taking down? An 800-pound gorilla?"

The family wants answers.

"They're upset about what happened and want an explanation," Kevin Boyd, a spokesman for Conrad Scherer, a law firm that represents Whittier.

Danielle Incarnato, 20, of New Haven, is Diotaiuto's third-cousin. She's still in disbelief.

"It was just so horrible," she said. "He was supposed to come here the day after he got killed."

Although Diotaiuto was born in Maine and raised there and Florida, he spent many summers in East Haven.

Incarnato recalls a flood of memories together: movies, Yankees games, eating lemon ice on Wooster Street, and seeing Anthony's father, known as "Andy Dio," play trumpet at Italian festivals.

"He always had his family first," she said. "He'd do anything for anyone."

In addition to working as a bartender/manager and disc jockey, he attended Broward Community College.

"He was a young man who had a beauty of character," she said.

Television and print media in Florida have closely followed the story. It also has taken on a life in Internet blogs, where some see it as another call to change the nation's drug laws.

At a recent wake, Notarino cautioned others against railing against police officers in general.

Since the shooting, she scours news accounts for examples of good and bad police work, particularly in regard to drug enforcement.

She is writing a letter to Sunrise city officials as part of the extended family's efforts to demand accountability.

"You don't violate the law to uphold it," she said. "God knows whose kid could be next."

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