Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Boston Police Shoot Alleged Gang Member In Possession Of Gun

It is always a serious situation when an officer fires his or her weapon in the Commonwealth. This one is no different. Boston Police are continuing their investigation of a police-involved shooting in the Boston area (Dorchester) over the weekend which left 19-year-old Manuel D. (hereinafter, the “Deceased”) dead. While we wait for the investigative dust to settle, we know one thing…lawyers will soon be involved.

“Based on preliminary investigation, it appears he fired on us, and officers returned fire,” said Eddy Chrispin, a Boston Police spokesman. He further related that the Deceased was part of a group of men standing on a corner who were approached by police. He is said to have fled when officers drew near at around 9:41 p.m.

An unnamed police source also relates that the officers believed the teenager was involved in some of the gun-related violence that has been plaguing the area over the last couple of weeks and was being pursued for that reason when the gunfire exchange occurred.

Well, that’s one perspective. As usual, there are others..

According to some witnesses, the Deceased had actually gone to a memorial in Dorchester for a close friend of his who had recently died. Moments after he had arrived at the memorial, the deadly shoot-out with the police occurred.

One witness who grew up with the Deceased near the site of the shooting said that he and several friends were standing by the memorial when heard two shots ring out and saw numerous police officers rush in their direction. “Then there were more shots and more shots,” the witness described. “They didn’t have to shoot him like that, 15 times. He was running away and they just kept shooting at him.”

Yes, if this were true and the police officers were simply shooting at him as he ran away, the charge the officers would soon be facing would mostly likely be that of the homicide family.

Apparently, even the exact cause of death is unknown. According to two law enforcement officials, while we know that the Deceased died of gunshot wounds, it remains unclear whether the shot that killed him came from police or his own gun.

Police had been in the area to question people who had been gathering at the memorial, made of candles, flowers, and liquor bottles, erected several days ago for 17-year-old Andrew Tavares, according to the two law enforcement officials.

Yes, this would be the memorial for the childhood friend of the Deceased.

The police apparently believed the Deceased was a gang member and carried a gun. When the officers approached the Deceased, he fled, then turned around and began firing at them, the sources said. The officers returned fire, they said.

Interestingly, A spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said the officers actually had spoken with the Deceased briefly before he fled and opened fire
An autopsy , being conducted, should reveal some interesting details.

The officers involved were taken to the hospital for treatment for stress and placed on administrative leave, as part of procedure when law enforcement is involved in a shooting.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

Any split-second explosion of violence, of course, results in a certain amount of confusion. Who started it? Why did it start? What were the exact chain of events?

Typically, with differing perspectives, answers can sometimes differ without anyone intentionally lying.

Of course, this case has a few very troubling contradictions already. The police say that they went over to talk to the Deceased, who immediately ran off. The prosecutor’s office says that there had been a brief discussion between the police and the Deceased. The other witness would seem to indicate that the Deceased was merely running to from the site of shooting when he was gunned down.

Interestingly, the police, even before the confrontation, assumed the Deceased was armed and dangerous. It might also be worth asking just what the police expected to encounter, coming to a memorial service for purposes of investigating crimes.

Timing can be a sensitive issues when friends’ memorial services are concerned.

Yes, perspectives on the whole event might certainly differ.

Whatever perspective you subscribe to, one question remains. Namely, “What does this have to do with you?”

Quite a bit, actually.

It demonstrates once again how differing perspectives can lead to arrests and to death.

“But Sam…wasn’t the Deceased under a duty to stop for the police when they wanted to talk to him?”

Actually, no. We are aware of nothing that would provide the requisite showing to enable the police to force the Deceased to stop and talk to them. There are various search and seizure rules regarding that.

“So, the police had to be at fault, right?”

Not necessarily. Certainly, if the Deceased turned and fired at them, they had the right to defend themselves. However, what if the truth were somewhere in between?

What if the police came to the scene to investigate, knowing that tensions would understandably be high and that they might not be welcome? Suppose further that they either had a brief conversation or simply said they wanted to talk to the Deceased and he took off. Finally, suppose that, at some point, he turned to see if they were chasing him. The police believe he is armed and dangerous. Might they believe he is turning to fire at them?

Is there any crime scene evidence to show that there were shots fired at the officers? What does the autopsy show about how close the shots were fired into the Deceased? From what gun? Why would a bullet from the Deceased’s own gun (no less the multiple shots reported) hit him?

These questions will be further investigated. However, there is one clear truth here. Police officers, who also happen to be human beings, have their own perspectives. They can also over-react. They also tend not to be too fond of people refusing to talk with them or have an attitude with them. They have a dangerous and difficult job to do and the wrong move can mean their own death.

Translation?

If you are stopped by the police, the best thing to do, as I have said in the past, is to be polite and not give them any trouble. Depending on the circumstance, you may or may not wish to answer their questions, but, even if you think they are exceeding their authority, do not challenge them.

They will win. You will lose.

Just keep the peace and contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if necessary afterward.

It’s a lot safer…both in terms of liberty and sustaining life.

If you want to contact me to discuss it, please feel free to call me at 617-492-3000.

For the original stories upon which today’s blog is based, please turn to : http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/04/police_and_da_i.html and http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/04/05/man_19_killed_in_shoot_out_with_police/?page=full

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