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Hub police chase, fatally shoot suspect

High-speed drama ends in Rockland

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By John M. Guilfoil and Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / September 8, 2011

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ROCKLAND - Boston police shot and killed a 44-year-old man yesterday after a wild chase down the Southeast Expressway as the morning rush hour was winding down.

The chase began with what police called a hit-and-run, with a woman pedestrian struck at Blue Hill Avenue and Woodcliff Street in Roxbury at about 10:20 a.m. It ended violently less than an hour later on the South Shore, at the Exit 14 ramp off Route 3 south.

The driver was identified by authorities as Mark McMullen, whose last known address was a Salvation Army shelter on Shawmut Avenue in the South End.

The chase came to a close when police shot McMullen in the chest after he rammed at least two cruisers in an attempt to escape, police said.

“This was a very dangerous event that had to be dealt with,’’ said Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, whose office is investigating the shooting to determine if it was justified.

Boston police are also looking into the circumstances leading up to the shooting to determine whether the chase should have been called off.

“Clearly, an incident occurred that was very serious this morning,’’ Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said.

It is exceedingly rare for Boston police to engage in a high-speed pursuit. The department’s policies discourage officers from chasing vehicles unless they believe a suspect is fleeing a serious, violent crime. Police officials could not recall any recent occasions when Boston police chased a suspect on Interstate 93, as they did yesterday.

Police rules also state that officers may fire at a moving vehicle only if the officers fear that their safety is threatened.

In this case, Boston police officers first noticed the car as they were patrolling the Roxbury corner and saw a woman in some kind of dispute with McMullen as he sat in his car, a 2010 Hyundai Sonata.

As the officers approached the vehicle, the driver took off and somehow struck the woman, who appeared to be trying to get out of the car, with the door ajar, according to several law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation. She hung onto the vehicle and was dragged several feet before letting go, the officials said.

The police continued chasing the car as it sped up Melnea Cass Boulevard and headed toward I-93 south, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

The woman was not seriously injured and she was not hospitalized, said Elaine Driscoll, Boston police spokeswoman.

McMullen made his way onto I-93 at Southampton Street and onto Route 3 at the Braintree split. He exited the highway in Rockland, where state troopers and Boston police tried to box in his car. But McMullen kept driving, striking two State Police cruisers.

“As the suspect continued to refuse to surrender, an officer or officers discharged a weapon or weapons,’’ said David Procopio, a State Police spokesman. “The suspect was struck by gunfire.’’

McMullen was pronounced dead at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth at 12:45 p.m., Cruz said during a press conference at the scene, where battered cruisers and dozens of other emergency vehicles swarmed the grassy area around the ramp. McMullen’s maroon Hyundai, its air bags deployed and the rear window shot out, sat nearby.

Two Boston police Special Operations officers were believed to be involved in the shooting, the officials said, but it was unclear who fired the deadly shot. The officials identified one of the officers as Chris Carr, a highly respected patrolman who was commended for bravery in 2006 when he wrestled a handgun from a suspect.

Davis confirmed that Boston police fired on the suspect but he did not identify the shooters. Procopio said it does not appear that any troopers fired their weapons. It was not clear last night how many times McMullen was shot.

McMullen’s parents live in Middletown, Conn., and his car had a Connecticut license plate. His father, Ronald McMullen, 73, said in a brief telephone interview that his son had lived in Boston for the past several years. McMullen still visited home, his father said.

“He was just here yesterday [Tuesday] with me and his mother,’’ McMullen said. The father said he did not know exactly what happened to his son and declined to speak further.

Two Boston police officers and a state trooper attached to the Bristol district attorney’s office were hospitalized with injuries sustained in the chase, police said. Those injuries were not considered life-threatening. A Rockland police officer was also injured in a spinout on the way to the scene; officials said that officer’s injuries were not serious.

The chase reached speeds of more than 80 miles per hour, officials said. The car McMullen was driving was registered to a family member, police said.

During the I-93 stretch of the chase, two cars were struck by the suspect near the Freeport Street exit in Dorchester, Procopio said. Neither driver was injured.

After the incident, traffic was backed up for several hours on Route 3 near Exit 14.

Lisa Toscano, 30, was just coming back from running errands at the time. She was driving south on the Expressway when she saw the chase.

“I had just passed the Braintree onramp, and I could see, far in the distance, more and more blue lights,’’ she said. “I thought it was an escort or something. The maroon car passed me, although he wasn’t going crazy fast, it didn’t seem too unusual until I started to see him weave in and out of traffic, then I put two and two together. ’’

It was the second police shooting in as many days in Massachusetts. A suspect in an attempted jewelry store heist in Woburn was shot Tuesday. Veteran police officer Robert DeNapoli was seriously wounded in the shootout.

“It’s been a different time for police in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over the last 24 hours,’’ Davis said.

The last time Boston police shot and killed a suspect was June 14, when officers shot a man who had fired at them during a domestic violence call on Wentworth Terrace in Dorchester. The suspect, Tyrone Cummings, 25, died about a month later at Boston Medical Center.

Last night, workers at the Harbor Light Center, run by the Salvation Army in the South End, refused to comment on McMullen’s possible time there.

Outside the building, two male residents of the shelter, who declined to give their names, said that McMullen was a nice person who was never violent.

“The guy was a good guy, that’s all I know,’’ one man said. “He was not a troublemaker.’’

The other man said McMullen had mentioned that he had a new baby coming. “He was an all right guy,’’ he said.

The shelter features a 6-to-9-month program for men dealing with alcohol and substance abuse, said one worker, who declined to be named.

“When somebody’s shot it’s obviously sad,’’ the worker said. “There will be prayers for his family . . . it’s just the nature of the disease.’’

Travis Andersen, Mike Bello, Martin Finucane, and David L. Ryan of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Derek J. Anderson and Amanda Cedrone contributed to this report. John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globe_guilfoil. Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com.