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AG finds Massachusetts troopers were justified in deadly shooting after wild chase

Union Leader Correspondent

August 23. 2017 6:40PM
A still from video taken by a Massachusetts State Police helicopter June 15, when a suicidal man was shot to death by Mass. troopers in Newton at the end of a wild chase. (Courtesy)

NEWTON — Four Massachusetts state troopers were justified when they fired on Michael Brown after he shot at police several times and engaged in other threatening behavior during a police chase in June that came to a deadly end in Newton, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said Wednesday.

A 29-page report on the investigation into the June 15 police-involved shooting was released at a news conference that included dramatic nighttime video clips taken by a Massachusetts State Police helicopter as it tracked the chase from Malden, Mass., to just over the state line in Newton. It was there that Brown was shot and then crashed into a tree at the intersection of Amesbury and Bear Hill roads just before midnight.

After the crash, MacDonald said troopers exited their cruisers with guns drawn.

"Mr. Brown ignored verbal commands and instead he revved the engine of the truck and accelerated toward several troopers with his arm extended holding a silver handgun. The troopers fired. Mr. Brown suffered a single gunshot wound to the neck and died immediately. Mr. Brown's dangerous and potentially deadly actions prompted the troopers to fire," MacDonald said.

The troopers, who have since returned to work, were identified as Michael Caranfa, Robert Holland, George Katsarakes and Daniel Purtell.

No New Hampshire police officers were involved in the chase or shooting. Police began pursuing the 40-year-old Brown after an arrest warrant was issued by the Presque Isle Police Department in Maine.

Brown, who lived in Presque Isle, was wanted for the sexual assault of a teenage girl in Maine.

Brown had a criminal record and had contacted his girlfriend on June 7 to say that he wouldn't go back to prison, was suicidal, and had tried to commit suicide that day, the report said.

On June 14, Presque Isle police learned from one of Brown's relatives that he said if he were caught, he would be looking for police to shoot him.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said Brown planned to "commit suicide by cop."

On the day of the chase, June 15, police said Brown stole a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and a 9mm handgun with a 15-round magazine from an uncle in Maine.

VIDEO: Below is a 3-1/2 minute video of the Newton police-involved shooting on June 15. A 33-minute full version can be found by clicking here.

Authorities issued bulletins for police in the region to be on the lookout. Strelzin said Brown's phone was pinged in Hampton about 8:30 p.m. and then again in Malden, Mass., about 10 p.m. That's when Malden officers began the pursuit and several Massachusetts troopers joined in.

Video clips taken from the Massachusetts State Police chopper show the pursuit and includes audio of troopers stating several times that Brown was firing at them.

Brown also tossed items out of the truck and at one point began driving north in the southbound lane on Interstate 95 with his headlights off, Strelzin said.

The truck also posed a danger because two of its tires were shredded; Brown continued driving with only rims on one side.

At one point a trooper tried to bump the truck, but Brown fired at him. Strelzin said the trooper fired back, but Brown continued on and reached speeds of 75 mph in rural areas.

The chase crossed into Newton by 11:51 p.m. After about a mile-and-a-half, Brown lost control and the truck spun out and then stopped on the side of the road facing the troopers.

The report said the troopers got out of their cruisers with guns drawn and shouted for him to show his hands, but he drove toward them. The four troopers fired at that point. The truck then went off the road and hit a tree.

READ THE REPORT -- The full AG's report can be viewed below:

Strelzin said Brown was removed from the truck and immediately handcuffed, but he had already died of the gunshot wound to the neck.

"Mr. Brown had many chances to end the pursuit peacefully," Strelzin said, adding that Brown shot at police six different times during the chase and fired up to 15 rounds.

Police found the pistol and a note from Brown's mother inside the truck. The note hinted that Brown was suicidal.

"Mike: Just want you to know I've always loved you know (sic) matter what. Your (sic) my son. If I don't see you again I'll always hold you close to my heart. Take care. Love Mom XOXO," the note said.

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