SPRINGFIELD – A man and a woman were shot by Springfield police this afternoon after they tried to escape pursuing police by driving into the city’s South End -- where numerous officers were on patrol looking for looters in a neighborhood ravaged by Wednesday’s tornado.
The man and the woman were being sought by authorities in connection with an assault on a woman, not because they were suspected of looting, said Springfield Police Sergeant John Delaney, a department spokesman.
However, two members of the Massachusetts National Guard told the Globe that the incident began when they saw a man trying to steal copper from the remains of an auto repair shop that had been knocked to the ground by the city today because of tornado damage.
After being ordered away by the National Guardsmen, police moved in to arrest the man for the attempted theft, the Guardsmen said. When police converged on him, the man signaled a friend in a nearby vehicle, who drove up and then sped off, apparently with the thief inside.
According to Delaney and witnesses, the SUV with North Carolina plates roared down Central Street and onto Union Street where they drove into the parking lot of the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society.
The SUV was trapped in the parking lot by Springfield police cruisers, who had pursued the vehicle through the heavily damaged neighborhood.
According to Delaney, the SUV twice rammed a police cruiser blocking its path. Officers got out of their cruisers and ordered the driver to stop. At that point, the driver allegedly steered in the direction of the officers, who opened fire into the vehicle.
The SUV avoided police and drove onto Maple Street and then onto William Street with police in pursuit. The driver of the SUV turned into a dead end alleyway where police arrested them, Delaney said.
Police said a man was shot in the wrist and the woman was shot in the hip. The man was driving the SUV, police said. The two suspects were taken to Bay State Medical Center for treatment of what Springfield Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet described as serious injuries.
The police involved shooting is under investigation.
Fitchet said none of his officers were injured in the incident.
He also said the incident was not directly connected to the tornado, except that it took place in an area heavily damaged by the storm.
“It didn’t have anything to do with the tornado,’’ Fitchet said in a brief telephone interview.
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