Fatal shooting of Boston man called "suicide-by-cop"

By Claire Cummings
The Boston Globe

QUINCY, Mass. — Police shot and killed a 65-year-old Quincy man yesterday after he attacked officers with a knife as they responded to a report of an attempted suicide, authorities said.

Police and an emergency unit responded to a 911 call at about 10 a.m. and found James Hart with self-inflicted knife wounds inside a small shed on Grand View Avenue , Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating said during a press conference yesterday. When officers tried to force Hart out of the small structure with a chemical spray, he ran out and attacked with a 12-inch kitchen knife, Keating said.

"Mr. Hart lunged at two of the officers while urging them to shoot him," Keating said.

Two officers fired a total of three rounds, two of which struck Hart, who was transported to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Keating did not identify the officers or say whether one or both fired the shots that hit Hart.

Keating said Hart had a history of mental illness, but he had no specific information . He said he also could not say whether police had responded to the property in the past.

"The evidence clearly indicates the shooting was justified," Keating said.

Officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave, during which they will receive counseling, Police Chief Robert F. Crowley said.

"They've got to have time because they're victims, too," Crowley said in a telephone interview after the press conference. "We don't expect them back to work until they're 100 percent."

"We're confident that the officers acted properly," he said.

Crowley would also not identify the officers who shot Hart. But Officer Mark Millane, reached at his Quincy residence yesterday afternoon, confirmed that he had been involved in a struggle with Hart but declined to comment, referring questions to the Police Department.

The last time an officer fired a weapon at a suspect, Crowley said, was during a 1997 pursuit that began at a Burger King in South Quincy and went into Boston. But Crowley said he did not believe the suspect was hit.

Hart's relatives occupy two units in the house where the shooting occurred, Keating said. Hart also lived in the home, a spokesman for Keating and family members said.

The three-story beige house with light blue shutters and an American flag extending from an enclosed porch sits on what neighbors describe as a quiet street.

Merrie King, 64, of Quincy said she grew up in the neighborhood and came down to Grand View Avenue yesterday to see what happened. She said she used to baby-sit in a home near Hart's in the 1950s.

"It was safe to roam the streets day and night" then, King said. "This end of the street was always quiet."

She said many more residences have turned into rentals since her childhood.

"You don't get to know who's living there before they're in and out," she said.

A woman on the porch of the residence where the shooting occurred declined comment last night. "We've just had a trauma in the family," said the woman who did not identify herself. "Now, please just leave us alone."

Globe correspondent April Yee and staff reporter Maria Cramer contributed to this report. 

Copyright 2007 The Boston Globe

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