An Abington police officer is expected to be OK after crashing his SUV while helping pursue a man who allegedly robbed a convenience store, stole a Rockland police vehicle, and led law enforcement on an ultimately fatal chase through morning rush-hour traffic Friday.
The 36-year-old man was shot and killed by a Massachusetts State Police trooper in Quincy after he exited the stolen police vehicle holding a patrol rifle.
Speaking during a brief press conference in Quincy, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey declined to identify the man until his family could be notified. Rockland Police Chief John Llewellyn said the man was known to police, although not from the community.
Shortly after 6:30 a.m., Friday morning, Rockland police received a call that a white male had robbed a 7-11. Security camera footage shows that the man took a gun from his waistband, pointed it as the cashiers, took $344, and ran off on foot. A customer who had come back in to cash a winning scratch ticket followed the man up up Highland Road and was able to provide Rockland police with a good description, Llewellyn said. Rockland police started combing through the nearby neighborhoods on foot and in marked vehicles. Llewellyn said police started receiving 9-1-1 calls reporting a suspicious man running through yards off Brookside Road, and trying to enter a pair of houses.
According to Llewellyn, a Rockland police officer at one point cornered the suspect, and drew his gun on him, and the suspect asked the officer to shoot him. There was a foot chase, and the suspect made it around a house, and got into an unlocked police vehicle. Llewellyn said the suspect drove the vehicle at two police officers who made the decision to not shoot at him.
The man then led Rockland Police and State Police on a chase through Rockland, eventually heading up Route 3, before coming to a stop on the off-ramp to Burgin Parkway in Quincy.
Abington Deputy Police Chief Chris Cutter said during the initial search, an Abington police officer started patrolling along the town’s Rockland border. After the man stole the police car, the Abington officer joined the pursuit, lost control of the SUV while going around a curve on East Water Street, and struck a utility pole, Cutter said. The vehicle ended up rolling over onto its roof. The officer was pulled out of the vehicle and brought to South Shore Hospital as a precaution.
“As of right now, he seems fine,” Cutter said.
A Weymouth police officer also crashed during the pursuit on Route 3.
After the suspect stopped on Burgin Parkway, an assortment of local and state police vehicles surrounded the stolen vehicle. An armored State Police SWAT vehicle known as a Bearcat happened to be nearby, and came to the scene. Morrissey said trained State Police personnel in the Bearcat attempted to negotiate with the man.
After about an hour the man restarted the stolen Rockland police vehicle and drove away down the ramp towards Burgin Parkway, forcing officers to scramble back into their cars. Morrissey said law enforcement positioned on Burgin Parkway used spiked “stop sticks” to puncture and shred the vehicle’s tires, causing the man to stop near the Quincy Street intersection. This time the vehicle was pinned in by a pair of Bearcats and other police vehicles.
Morrissey said members of the State Police Special Tactical Operations team, referred to as a STOP Team, again tried talking to the man from a safe distance. He said officers could see that the man had gained access to the patrol rifle that was kept in the vehicle.
“The suspect started to come out of the passenger door armed with the patrol rifle,” Morrissey said. “A STOP team member discharged his weapon and shot the suspect.”
Morrissey said the man was treated immediately at the scene and brought to Boston Medical Center, but was pronounced dead at 10:15 a.m.
The entire drama unfolded at the start of the morning rush hour, with the roads slick from an overnight rain. Cutter said the wet roads likely contributed to the crash and that the police officer was not traveling at a high-rate of speed.
“He wasn’t part of the pursuit, he was trailing behind the State Police in case the chase was terminated, he could be right there and help out,” Cutter said.
Because the SUV rolled onto its roof, the vehicle will likely be considered a total loss. Cutter said Abington has a pair of spare cruisers that will be put into service until a new vehicle can be obtained.
Abington Police officers receive 40 hours of training behind the wheel, including pursuit strategies, while at the police academy, Cutter said.
Llewellyn said Rockland police are still searching for the gun the suspect allegedly used in the robbery. He said the man bent a metal bracket that was securing the patrol rifle in the cruiser. The officer whose vehicle was stolen will receive counseling on how to properly secure his vehicle, Llewellyn said.