By Richard Weizel
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Reuters) - Connecticut prosecutors on Wednesday cleared four police officers in the 2013 shooting of a black suspect who died of wounds sustained while police tried to arrest him in a parking lot in Bridgeport, the state's largest city.
The four officers, three of whom are white and one black, believed they needed to use deadly force to defend themselves when 23-year-old Carnell Williams pointed a gun at them while the driver of the car he was riding in attempted to crash through a circle of police officers.
"I reviewed the case to the best of my ability and did not find race played a role in the shootings," said David Shepack, state's attorney for Connecticut's Litchfield district.
Williams, a suspected drug runner, was one of two people targeted in a sting operation targeting illegal gun purchases. He was shot in the torso and later died of his wounds.
The Bridgeport police officers: Sean Ronan, James Borrico and Christopher Borona, who are white, and a black officer, Everton Walker, were put on desk duty during the state's review of the shooting. It was not immediately clear on Wednesday if or when they would resume full duty.
"This was an extremely tough situation for everyone involved," said Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett. "It's a very difficult decision for any police officer to use force, but on rare occasions it's necessary in order to keep our neighborhoods safe and secure."
The deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police in Baltimore, New York City and Ferguson, Missouri, have prompted waves of racially charged protests over the past year over the use of force by law enforcement.
In the wake of those protests, U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday ordered U.S. police department to reduce their reliance on tactical equipment and banned the use of some military hardware by law enforcement officers.
Bridgeport has regularly appeared near the top of rankings of U.S. cities that face high crime rates.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Walsh)