03/15/2007

Shoot-out leaves Mass. officer wounded, suspect dead

Springfield Republican (Massachusetts) 
By PATRICK JOHNSON
Related Story: Wounded Mass. officer praised 
 
SPRINGFIELD - A Springfield police officer was wounded by a suspect who was then killed by police in a shoot-out at 126 Malden St. yesterday afternoon, officials said.

Aaron Brevoort, 28, was pronounced dead at Baystate Medical Center at 2:35 p.m., about 50 minutes after he first opened fire on the detail of 10 city, state and federal police who were attempting to bring him into custody, police said. He was wanted on a fugitive from justice warrant from New York.

Police officer David M. Askins, 37, appointed to the force in 1993, was shot in the leg by Brevoort, said Springfield Police Commissioner Edward A. Flynn.

He was treated at Baystate and is expected to make a full recovery, Flynn said.

Flynn and Hampden County District Attorney William M. Bennett, in a brief press briefing early yesterday evening, said city and state investigators are trying to piece together what happened.

Bennett said the investigation will take some time before the final report is completed. "Police are collecting all the information so we can have all the facts," he said.

Each officer involved and other witnesses need to be interviewed, an autopsy performed on Brevoort, and the state police ballistics team needs to analyze numerous shell casings found throughout the scene, he said.

What is clear so far is that Brevoort shot at police and police returned fire, Bennett said.

"It is clear there was a .45-caliber pistol, that the individual, now deceased, had, and that was what caused the problems up on Malden Street," Bennett said.

Based on preliminary accounts from officers and other witnesses, Flynn said officers surrounded the building. Brevoort was in a first floor apartment. "The suspect met the officers at the back door and immediately opened fire," Flynn said.

Officers returned fire. "The suspect retreated through the apartment, still firing his weapon, to the front bedroom where two women and a 1-year-old baby boy were inside," the commissioner said. It is unclear what their relationship was with Brevoort.

Brevoort tried to escape by breaking a window, but when he saw officers outside, he again retreated back inside and moments later charged out the front door, Flynn said.

He again opened fire, striking Askins in the leg, and officers returned fire, hitting him multiple times.

"The witnesses are cooperating, the suspect is dead and the officer will make a full recovery," Flynn said. "That's the long and short of it."

Flynn would not specify where Brevoort was shot, and said only that he was hit "more than once."

Flynn said he commended Askins and each of the other officers involved for demonstrating "courage and professionalism under extraordinary circumstances."

Mayor Charles V. Ryan said the shooting incident was "very sobering, very serious," and said his best wishes go out to Askins and his family.

"He is one of the many heroes we have in that department unfortunately called upon to risk their life," Ryan said.

Police last night did not have a clear picture of who Brevoort was.

Flynn said he did not know if he was a native, a long-time resident or a newcomer to Springfield.

He was wanted on a fugitive from justice warrant issued out of Duchess County in New York state, Bennett said. He said he believed the warrant had been issued originally for a burglary.

The police flier issued to Springfield police officers said he was wanted for parole violation. The flier also warned that he was believed to be armed, a user of crack cocaine, and officers were urged to approach with caution.

Flynn said the detail that sought to bring him in consisted of six Springfield police, four state troopers and one United States marshal.

The size of the detail indicates Brevoort was considered dangerous, he said.

Flynn said police were not yet sure how many shots were fired in total.

Brevoort was armed with a .45-caliber gun with what Flynn described as a high-capacity magazine.

One neighbor, 16-year-old Nefty R. Gonzalez, estimated hearing as many as many as 15 shots. "There were about 10 or 15 pops and I knew it was gunshots," Gonzalez said.

"It's awful when you hear something like that. I've got little sisters and I was worried about them," he said.

State and local police, about three dozen in all, quickly converged on the street of multi-family houses, blocking off access to motor vehicles and pedestrians. Those who live on the street were escorted to their front doors.

Police investigators could be seen placing more than a dozen orange cones atop what appeared to be evidence.

At 4 p.m., a man emerged from 126 Malden St. carrying a baby, handing the child to her mother, who did not want to be identified.

"My baby was in daycare on the third floor," said the woman. "I got a call at work and came right over. I was so worried."

The shooting drew a sizable media contingent, including the local press and two television crews from Boston. Two helicopters flew overhead for camera coverage.

Felix Santiago said he has lived on Orange Street the past eight years, and has watched the neighborhood slide downhill.

"It's a rough neighborhood. It's a drug spot here," he said.

But Niecy Chase said that this was the first major trouble she has seen in the year she lived in the neighborhood.

"This is the first time we've seen anything like this," Chase said.

"It was a hell of a shoot-out," Chase said.

IN THE LINE OF FIRE

- Springfield police officer David M. Askins is the first officer wounded in Greater Springfidl since 2000.

- Off duty Springfield police officer Carlo P. Damato was shot Dec. 23, 2000 during robbery in the South End. 
 
Copyright 2007 The Republican

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