Ex-Conn. Police Officer Backs Victims' Bill 6 Years after Brutal Knife Attack

May 21, 2024
In 2018, then-Hartford Police Officer Jill Kidik was nearly decapitated during a call by a schizophrenic woman. Now, she has championed a state bill that adds protections for victims of mentally ill attackers.

When then- Hartford Police officer Jill Kidik survived a brutal knife attack to her neck during a routine call six years ago Friday, she nearly lost her voice.

Now years into her recovery, Kidik has found her voice in a new way — advocating for victims of violence. That advocacy has led to the passage of a state bill that will broaden protections for victims whose attackers are deemed not liable for their crimes due to mental illness.

Earlier this month, Kidik learned that a bill she has championed passed both the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives, furthering safeguards for victims whose attackers or assailants are committed to the state Psychiatric Security Review Board after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

H.B. 5500, which passed in the general assembly without any opposition, extends protective order options to victims whose attackers fall into that category.

Once the bill is signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, victims will gain the right to have protective orders against the people who hurt them, barring them from contact should they someday be released from Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown — the state’s only hospital for the criminally insane.

Kidik learned during her recovery that protective orders put in place by the courts after an arrest for a violent crime are no longer valid if a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity and becomes an acquittee committed to the board’s custody, as her attacker was.

The orders are removed when they are committed, a fact Kidik did not know until she found herself unprotected.

Kidik does not plan to feel unprotected for long. When the bill soon becomes law, she said she will head straight to the Hartford courthouse to ask for a protective order.

“Once that gets signed I will be marching to GA-14 to have mine re-ordered,” Kidik said.

The attack

On May 17, 2018, Kidik was on patrol as an officer with the Hartford Police Department when she responded to a call at 5 Constitution Plaza that appeared to be a routine landlord-tenant dispute.

When Kidik met with the tenant, Chevoughn Augustin, things took a quick, terrifying turn. As Kidik asked to see her identification, Augustin, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was not adhering to her medication at the time, lunged at the officer, dragging her by her hair and then stabbing her in the throat with a kitchen knife.

Kidik was nearly decapitated.

The weapon wielded by the woman she was called to help had sliced through her trachea, leaving her with only one salvageable vocal cord.

When Augustin appeared in court, an immediate protective order was issued. The piece of paper was delivered to Kidik in the hospital.

“It was brought to my room in the ICU,” Kidik said. “It had no expectation, no expiration. When someone tries to murder you, it’s kind of a given.”

Kidik still keeps the order in her wallet.

Hartford police Officer Jill Kidik recounts near-fatal stabbing, colleagues recall frenetic effort to save her, as her attacker goes on trial

In 2021, when Augustin was committed to the custody of the Psychiatric Security Review Board at the state-run Whiting Forensic Hospital in Middletown for nearly four decades, that protective order disappeared.

Kidik wasn’t notified.

During Augustin’s commitment, Kidik is not at risk of running into her attacker or fearful that she will show up at her home where she lives with her husband and two young daughters. And when she spoke to victims’ advocates after her case moved through court, Kidik said she was not necessarily worried about Augustin ever showing up at her home if she were to be released years later. But then she wondered, should she be worried? Would she be protected if Augustin were released?

As a former police officer, Kidik, who was forced to retire early due to her injuries, knew that the process of protecting a victim from their attacker was much more streamlined with a protective order in place.

With a protective order, a call to 911 would result in an immediate response by officers who knew the background and there would likely be a rearrest for violating the order.

Without one, Kidik wondered what would happen. Would she have to explain the entire complicated history of the attack to responding officers? And how long would that take?

Instead of worrying that she may someday find out the answer to those questions, she decided to get involved and make sure protections would be in place.

“That was an indication that I am here for a reason,” she said. “Even though I only have one vocal cord, I have anxiety, I have PTSD, I can’t not do something about things that aren’t right.”

An added layer of protection

Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt, whom Kidik met through their mutual involvement in a PSRB work group, said that protective orders are often put in place for 50 to 60 years.

That means that if the order is for no contact, the acquittee will still be prohibited from contacting their victim if and when they are discharged from the PSRB,. So if Kidik obtains a no-contact order and Augustin is released, it would be a felony for her to contact Kidik. Without a protective order, that contact would not be a crime.

State Rep. Greg Howard, who supported HB 5500 and is a detective with the Stonington Police Department, said the new legislation will allow law enforcement officers to better protect victims from those re-traumatizing risks.

“It means that they can take action before there is a physical altercation,” Howard said. “And it lets the system, whether it’s the mental health system or criminal justice system, know that there is a history of issues and it may not be safe having this person in the community.”

Howard said that with a protective order, a victim does not have to wait until an overt violent crime is committed to get help from police.

Howard said that even seeing their attacker out in public can be severely re-traumatizing for a victim, and protective orders can allow them to avoid being re-victimized or suffering further trauma.

“I think it gives a little bit of solace knowing that one wrong move, we don’t have to try to build a case,” he said.

He said he hopes it allows Kidik and other survivors to think, “I can sleep a little better at night knowing that if she takes action on me, I can take action immediately.”

Platt said she felt survivors whose attackers were found not guilty by reason of insanity deserved the same safeguards as victims whose attackers were criminally convicted.

She said she could not think of “any reason to treat this category of victims any differently than any other category of victims.”

“And I think the legislature recognized this and that’s why this bill passed,” she added.

Kidik said there was some debate over whether allowing criminal protective orders criminalized acquittees who, in the eyes of the law, were found not guilty of crimes. But Platt said the assumption that the protective orders were specifically not offered in not guilty by reason of insanity cases was incorrect in her opinion. She thinks it was more of an oversight.

“There are relatively few people who use the (not guilty by reason of insanity) defense successfully in Connecticut and I think many victims or survivors were unaware that they didn’t have this very important protection,” she said.

Kidik agreed.

She said there are less than 140 people committed to the PSRB after an not guilty by reason of insanity finding in the state, and she thinks the lack of protection stemmed from “a lack of understanding and knowledge from every angle.”

“The victims and the acquittees are kind of on the same page with not knowing what the policies are. We’re all kind of in the dark,” she said. “But I can’t play ignorant. I have to protect myself if no one is going to do it for me.”

After Kidik testified on behalf of the bill before the judicial committee, HB 5500 passed unanimously with “zero opposition,” Howard said.

Howard applauded Kidik’s bravery and vulnerability, saying it is not often police officers show their emotions as Kidik did while testifying.

“This is a trained police officer who sat there and became emotional telling her story,” Howard said. He hopes the moment had an impact on his colleagues in Hartford.

The bill’s passage, he said, is a good step forward toward focusing on victim’s needs.

Fighting for the protective orders was “not only in (Kidik’s) best interest but in the best interest of every other victim in the state of Connecticut,” Howard said.

“Even though she doesn’t wear a badge anymore, she is still having an impact.”


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