Man who shot Mass. trooper sentenced to 15 years in prison
Trooper Michael Palmer was shot in the leg while intervening in a gun fight, forcing him to retire
By Stephanie Barry
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A man who shot a state trooper in the leg during a gunfight on New Year’s Eve in 2020 agreed to serve 15 years in prison Monday.
Christopher Gardner, 33, a city resident, pleaded guilty to assault with intent to murder and other crimes for firing a gun that pierced a responding trooper’s cruiser and hit the trooper in the leg, prompting his retirement.
Trooper Michael Palmer, who had joined the ranks of the state police only two years earlier, was forced to leave after he was injured, according to David Procopio, spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police. Palmer received the Medal of Valor from his agency in 2020 for responding to the active gunfire that night.
Hampden Assistant District Attorney Mary Sandstrom presented a video compilation to a judge to support Gardner’s lengthy sentence. It showed a public shootout in a housing project in the city’s Hungry Hill neighborhood that erupted during a dispute just before midnight; the sporadic gunfire went on for several minutes before Springfield police and the trooper arrived.
Children can be heard screaming for their lives on the video footage, gleaned primarily from city surveillance cameras and amateur cellphone video from that night. The video shows a series of muzzle flashes and includes more than a dozen gunshots by the time police arrived.
Many of those shots were aimed at Gardner, who somehow escaped largely unscathed; he suffered a minor foot injury that needed treatment. A bullet also pierced a Springfield police cruiser, but no one inside the car was injured, according to investigators.
Gardner was arrested after he attempted to flee on foot near Stafford and Nursery streets.
After the shooting, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno denounced the holiday-time gunplay.
“Do they allow this individual to be let go to continue to party and perpetuate mayhem to one of our residents or police officers and state troopers, or do they keep him locked up? On behalf of all our residents and public safety officials, I hope and pray for the latter,” Sarno said, referring to judges poised to set Gardner’s bail at the time.
Gardner’s defense attorney, Daniel D. Kelly, declined to comment after his client’s plea hearing in Superior Court on Monday afternoon.