A man was fatally shot by police after he allegedly rammed the doors of the Leicester Police Department in an SUV Sunday morning and shouldered what officers said appeared to be a rifle, according to the Worcester district attorney.
The vehicle drove up a handicapped ramp into the front doors of the station at 6:13 a.m., repeatedly bashing the doors, said district attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. at a press conference early Sunday afternoon.
When officers arrived at the scene after being alerted by a Worcester Emergency Communications Center dispatcher who saw the incident on security camera, the suspect allegedly got out of the vehicle and “immediately shouldered what appeared to be a rifle and aimed it at the police officers,” Early said.
The suspect, described as being in his early 20s, was fatally shot by officers and taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, where he was declared dead, he said. An ambulance arrived at the scene at “almost the same time” as the officers, according to Early.
“As the gun was pointed at the officers, as the officers fired at the man, they got down, immediately put him on his side [and] rendered aid,” before EMTs took over, Early said.
No one else was injured in the incident, and it was not immediately known if anyone was inside the building at the time, Early said.
Two officers have been placed on automatic administrative leave in connection with the incident, Leicester police chief Kenneth Antanavica said at the press conference.
It was not immediately clear how many officers responded to the incident.
Antanavica said there is no known threat to the public and that “at face value this appears an isolated incident.”
He said the vehicle “repeatedly rammed” the station’s steel double doors that open outwards, after driving up a ramp installed for handicap accessibility.
“Almost the entire vehicle was into the lobby,” Antanavica said.
Early said the suspect “was known to [police] a little bit” and said the man had a June 1 court date for a traffic violation, although he did not say if that is believed to be related.
He said the entire episode was caught on surveillance video. “You can see the officers acting at the time. You can see them doing a lot of the things that they’ve been trained to do. We’ve just got to slow down and let the experts take a look at that.
“Everything will be thoroughly reviewed,” Early said.
The town administrator, David A. Genereux, said in an e-mail that he was not able to provide further information. “But it is always a tragedy when a life is lost, particularly at a young age,” he said, referencing the suspect. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the driver’s family.”
“The young individual obviously had a motive, but what is that motive?” said Harry Brooks, vice chairman of the Leicester Select Board.
Brooks said the SUV appeared to have torn down the front doors as it drove into a roughly 8-by-14-foot lobby area between where the dispatcher used to sit and an interview room. He said the station has not had a dispatcher in about four years — the department switched to using a regional service — and said the area is often empty. The interview room also appeared damaged, he said.
Brooks said the incident reminded many in the town of the slaying of Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr., a former Leicester officer who was shot to death during a traffic stop.
The five-year anniversary of Tarentino’s death is later this month.
Still, nothing like this has happened in the town, said Brooks, who called it “a quiet bedroom community.”
He called Sunday’s incident “an unfortunate situation.”
“I feel bad for his family,” he said. “I feel bad from our department.”
Leicester is a former mill town with about 11,000 residents just west of Worcester, according to the town.
The Police Department’s full-time staff consisted of 19 police officers, an administrative assistant, two part-time clerks, and four part-time jailers, according to the town’s 2019 annual report, the latest available.
Lucas Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.