FRANKLIN, Mass. — Franklin’s police chief is praising the restraint shown by the officers who got an armed man into custody despite being fired upon during an hours-long stand-off.
Police said they received a 911 call around 12:45 p.m. on Sunday from a person reporting their family member was having a mental health crisis and possibly suicidal. The caller stated the man was armed with a handgun and was leaving the house to go into the woods and potentially harm himself and anyone who approached him.
A sergeant and four patrol officers responded to the Spruce Pond Village Condominiums and met with the caller.
“Eventually the individual came out the front door and started to walk toward the officers while armed with a handgun,” Chief Thomas Lynch told Boston 25 News. “He had the handgun under his chin and requested the officers take his life.”
Lynch explained how this phenomenon, commonly known as suicide by cop, is extremely stressful for officers. He noted in some cases, the person’s actions result in the officers taking the person’s life.
“In this situation, the individual never pointed a gun at the officers,” Lynch said.
Lynch said the man’s wife and daughter were located in the area between the officers and the man.
“Thankfully none of the officers had to take any action at that time,” Lynch said.
The man retreated into the house. At this time, the officers brought the man’s family members to a safe location.
“At this point, we wanted to make sure the scene became as secure and as safe as possible,” Lynch said.
The five Franklin police officers at the scene surrounded the home to make sure if the man exited, he wouldn’t be able to go anywhere. They then radioed to the police station and asked for back-up.
Lynch said police requested assistance from the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (MetroLEC), a consortium of 47 local area police departments and two sheriff’s departments. Franklin police officers scheduled for the next shift were also called in early.
As more officers started to arrive at the scene, they ordered all homes in the areas to shelter in place. They then evacuated homes in the immediate area.
“This was a pretty significant condo complex on a dead-end street,” Lynch said. “It presented a number of challenges, but we were able to get most of the residents in the immediate area out.”
The following divisions of MetroLEC responded to the scene: Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT), Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) and Investigative Services Unit (ISU).
The ISU is made up of detectives from the various MetroLEC departments.
“Their job is to collect information on the individual and his history,” Lynch said. “They also have a conversation with the family members and people who might know the person to try and come up with information we may need.”
The ISU then provides the information they gather to the CNT, which is a team of crisis negotiators whose mission is to try and get the person to surrender unarmed.
“It’s CNT’s job to try and contact the individual and to the best of their ability, safely resolve the situation, which usually results in the person giving up,” Lynch said.
The SWAT team makes sure the scene remains safe. They take over for the patrol officers who are already on scene securing the area. As the SWAT team members arrive, they rotate out with the patrol officers, who then have other functions to do.
“They basically tighten up the inner perimeter to make sure no one comes in and the individual doesn’t escape,” Lynch said.
Lynch said during Sunday’s call, the man came out of the home a couple of times, armed with his handgun, but he stayed around the front door.
“There was some communicator between the police officers and SWAT operators with the man to try and find out what was going on,” Lynch said.
The SWAT team utilized Bearcats, which are armored vehicles, to get close to the house. Lynch said the armor is bulletproof and can’t be penetrated by rounds from a handgun.
“It gives them a place of cover and safety that’s mobile,” Lynch said. “It allows them to remain in a safe position ready to potentially act if the opportunity arises.”
Lynch said the man ended up firing a total of six rounds from his handgun, striking the armored truck containing the SWAT officers.
The ricochet of one of the rounds struck a SWAT officer, but he wasn’t injured and didn’t require further treatment.
After being fired upon, the SWAT team engaged with the man from inside the armored vehicle using 40mm less than lethal munitions, a Taser and a K9 team.
“The man started to walk away like he was going to leave the perimeter,” Lynch said. “They were able to hit him with those less lethal rounds, which basically knocked him to the ground and then the officers were able to go in and place him into custody while he was still in possession of the firearm.”
Franklin paramedics immediately rendered aid to the man who had minor injuries, according to police. The man was then transported to a Boston hospital for a mental health evaluation. He remained at the hospital on Monday.
Police have charged the man with six counts of armed assault with intent to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault by means of a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction of property, discharging a firearm within 500-feet of a dwelling, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.
He’ll be arraigned at a later date.
Lynch said he’s “very proud” of the restraint shown by his officers who responded to the initial call and the SWAT team.
“It was a very chaotic scene,” Lynch said. “Even though the armored vehicle gives them a sense of added safety, it’s still a pretty nerving thing having somebody shooting at you.”
Lynch said the SWAT team didn’t have to return fire with the man because of the availability of the Bearcats. They were provided by the MetroLEC, the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (SEMLEC) and the Plymouth Police Department.
“Having those Bearcats really made a difference,” Lynch said. “Without that armor, this would have ended much differently. They probably would have had to use lethal force.”
Lynch said he spoke with his officers once they arrived back at the police station. He said they were all scheduled to work Monday, but he gave them the day off.
“I told them they’re not coming in,” Lynch said. “They need some time to relax and decompress.”
Lynch said his officers will meet with a peer support unit and clinician later this week to discuss the incident and make sure everyone is doing well.
The MetroLEC officers met at a Franklin fire station immediately after the incident to have a preliminary discussion about what occurred. They then met at a Franklin school auditorium on Monday for a more thorough debrief.
Lynch said he served on the MetroLEC for 18 years, three of them as a commander. He said the debriefs are a critical part of learning what worked and what didn’t.
“We want to make sure we learn anything we can from what occurred to make this better for next time.” Lynch said. “This outcome is what we all strive for in law enforcement, it’s just not always available.”
© 2020 Cox Media Group