06/15/2006

Mass. residents plea for probe into suicide of officer

Kim Ring
Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
 
EAST BROOKFIELD- More than 30 residents last night told selectmen they want to call the FBI or pay for an independent investigation into the death of part-time Police Officer Robert D. Morrow Jr.

The group, including several of the late officer's neighbors, said they want to know why statements from people who were close by when Officer Morrow allegedly shot himself in the chest June 5 don't jibe with information provided by Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte.

"Who is handling the investigation?" asked Danette J. Patten, who lives at 130 Pleasant St. "I would like to speak to them."

Mrs. Patten said she spoke with state police the night of the incident, but has been unable to provide other information because she has not been contacted by investigators since.

East Brookfield police Sgt. Robert C. Gregoire told the crowd the investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the state police. He confirmed reports that he raced to Officer Morrow's side as the wounded man lay in his driveway at 123 Pleasant St. and was ordered away by troopers. Sgt. Gregoire said he has "an issue with that."

He said he also remains concerned that state police never notified the local department that they would be attempting to arrest Officer Morrow on a warrant related to an alleged domestic violence incident at his home the night of June 4. He said he has made his issues known to state police.

"I have some concerns with how they handled it," he said. "They know that already."

Court records show that a four-count warrant for Officer Morrow, which listed among the charges assault with intent to murder, was issued June 5. Denise L. Morrow had also successfully sought a restraining order, writing in her statement to the court that her husband had held a gun to her head the night before.

Residents said they do not believe the state police will conduct a thorough investigation of their own officers. One asked why a state police helicopter hovered over the scene for what was reported as a suicide. Another said a section of Route 9 was closed, and wondered why that happened.

Some have said they do not believe Officer Morrow would have killed himself. They want to call in the FBI. Others asked if the town's lawyers would get involved. Joseph R. Fish, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said a representative from Kopleman & Paige of Boston told him the firm would not begin an investigation until the state police have finished theirs.

Dennis P. LeBeau, another neighbor who lives on Cottage Street, said he believes voters would approve a measure allowing the town to spend their tax money on an independent investigation. Most of the residents present raised their hands when asked if they'd agree to such a plan.

Some residents were angry with the media and said nothing positive was reported about Officer Morrow's career.

Judy A. McMillan, of 116 Pleasant St., said Officer Morrow once saved a neighbor's life when "something told him to go outside" and he found that person needing help.

Last week officers from area towns declined to comment about Officer Morrow's performance as a patrolman.

Mrs. McMillan and others said the public information disseminated by the media, some of which was released by the Western Worcester District Court in East Brookfield in accordance with the law, was hurtful to the Morrow family.

"All this stuff was blabbed to the newspapers," she said, adding that some of the comments came from the district attorney's office.

Selectmen urged residents to have patience and to stop the rumors that are threatening to divide the town.

"All of us have heard the different stories and exaggerations," Selectman Keith J. McInnes said. "I'm asking you just to relax. Let the town heal itself with time. Don't allow this to get any uglier or more bizarre than it already has."

Attempts to reach Mr. Conte last night were unsuccessful. 
 
June 14, 2006

See related:

Mass.: Officer shot himself during warrant attempt

Man with gun dies during warrant attempt

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