Boston police commish: Officers had 'no choice' but to shoot
Police Commissioner William B. Evans says two officers had "no choice" but to shoot a mentally ill man who was waving a steak knife and attacked two EMTs
By Laurel J. Sweet and Antonio Planas
BOSTON — Police Commissioner William B. Evans says two officers had “no choice” but to shoot a mentally ill man who was waving a steak knife, menacing them and two medics in his family’s South End brownstone early yesterday morning.
“It was seconds here. Their lives were in danger. A knife was being thrust at them. This was closer quarters inside an apartment,” Evans said. “This threat was very real. I feel for the mother, I know she’s distraught. We grieve for her, but they left us no choice.”
Evans declined to release the man’s name. Friends and neighbors identified him as Terrence Coleman, 31. His relatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office is investigating. Evans said his officers, who were not wearing body cameras, will be placed on administrative leave pending a preliminary finding on whether their actions were justified.
“They were pretty shook up by the whole thing. My officers are going to have to live with it,” Evans said. One EMT suffered a back injury, and the other a head injury, he said.
Conley said senior prosecutors “will lead a thorough, impartial, independent investigation into the events that transpired on Shawmut Avenue. As we have in every such case for more than a decade, we will release our entire investigative file to the family of the deceased and the media upon its conclusion.”
EMS spokeswoman Erin Curran said the EMTs were released from the hospital yesterday.
Evans said Coleman’s mother called 911, saying her paranoid-schizophrenic son “was awake for the last 24 hours, acting irrational.”
Because it was a medical call, Evans said, “EMS tried to go in and they were dealing with the whole issue themselves. We were still outside and at some point the individual pulled out a large knife and started to go at the EMS personnel, attacking them, coming at them with the knife. They were fighting him off. Our officers outside heard the commotion. They went in. They tried to subdue the individual, also, without using force, but he was able to keep his arm free and he started to come at the officers. At that point, it left them no choice. They fired.
“There’s been some past behavior like this.”
A law enforcement source said Coleman threatened to harm both himself and his mother with knives in 2006, and was removed from the home by police and EMS.
A neighbor and friend of the family said Coleman “had his problems, but when he had his episodes he’d just cover himself up with his hoodie. He wouldn’t talk to anyone. He’s not a bad person.”
The neighbor added, “We heard the argument and then suddenly the shooting. I threw myself on top of my daughter. I opened my door and saw him lying in the hallway ... he wasn’t moving at all.”