Crime

How a 7-Eleven robbery led to a fatal standoff with police in Quincy

A 36-year-old man was shot and killed by law enforcement after allegedly stealing a Rockland police cruiser and gaining access to a gun locked inside.

The stolen Rockland police cruiser wedged between two police vehicles. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe

A 36-year-old man was shot and killed by authorities in Quincy Friday after he allegedly robbed a Rockland convenience store, stole a police cruiser, and led officers on a chase through several communities that culminated in a rush-hour, roadway standoff.

The suspect, described only as a white male, was shot by the Massachusetts State Police Special Tactical Operations team as he exited the stolen cruiser with a police patrol rifle in hand on Thomas Burgin Parkway near Quincy Street, Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey said.

According to Morrissey, authorities discovered the man had access to the firearm while trying to negotiate with him. 

State police medics treated him at the scene, and he was then brought to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Morrissey said.

“It is unfortunate that anybody gets shot by anyone, and the last thing that I think a police officer wants to do is to be involved in a police-related shooting,” he said.

Authorities in Rockland said they initially pursued the suspect on foot after he allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven store on Market Street at gunpoint. 

Officers cornered him at one point, he challenged police to shoot him, Rockland Police Chief John Llewellyn said.

Although officials refrained from releasing the suspect’s identity as they worked to notify family members on Friday, Llewellyn said the suspect had a lengthy criminal record and lived in the area, though not in Rockland.

“I can tell you once his name comes out that you’ll Google it, you’ll see that there was a rather famous incident not that long ago,” Llewellyn said. “He does have an extensive criminal record. He’s done time in jail.”

Update: On Friday evening, the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office identified the deceased suspect as Eric M. Leach, who had past known addresses in Brockton and Winthrop.

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Here’s what we know so far:

The man challenged police to shoot him, and authorities tried to tase him to no avail, according to investigators. 

Rockland police speak after death of armed robbery suspect accused of stealing a town police cruiser, leading police on a chase

Rockland police speak after death of armed robbery suspect accused of stealing a town police cruiser, leading police on a chase. https://on.wcvb.com/2NUWUjN

Posted by WCVB Channel 5 Boston on Friday, March 26, 2021

Surveillance video footage from the 7-Eleven shows the man stood outside the store around 6:09 a.m. and looked in through the windows before entering, according to Llewellyn.

He walked the aisles for some time, took a pair of white gloves, and put them on, Llewellyn said. 

Once two men left the store, he approached the two women working behind the counter, pulled a handgun out from his waistband, aimed the weapon at one of the employees, and told them they were being robbed, Llewellyn said.

The suspect left with approximately $334, he said.

As he was leaving, a man who was in the store earlier returned to redeem a winning lottery ticket and was informed by the workers they had just been robbed, according to Llewellyn.

That man then followed the suspect up Highland Street, while police were notified at approximately 7 a.m., officials said.

Authorities received additional calls reporting a suspicious person running near Brookside Road — about a half mile from the store — including one where the person tried to enter a home, Llewellyn said.

An officer spotted the suspect, left his cruiser, cornered the man against a fence, drew his handgun, and told him to get on the ground, Llewellyn said.

“He refused to comply with the commands, and in fact put his arms up and challenged the officer to shoot him and walked at the officer,” he said during a press conference.

The officer then holstered his firearm and deployed his taser, but it was ineffective because the suspect was wearing a heavy sweatshirt, Llewellyn said.

The suspect drove toward police while in the cruiser, officials said.

Unable to tase the suspect, officers continued to pursue the suspect on foot.

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“At one point the suspect made it around the houses that they were behind, came out to one of the Rockland police cruisers — it was parked on Brookside Road — (and) got into that vehicle,” Llewellyn said. “The officers approached from the front of the vehicle, drew their service weapons, pointed it at the suspect in the vehicle. He backed up for about 12 feet, put it in drive, and then sped towards the officers.”

The officers avoided the vehicle while two other officers began a pursuit that stretched into Norwell, Hanover, Weymouth, and Route 3 in Abington.

The suspect struck several police cruisers while attempting to evade authorities.

The suspect hit “a number of police cruisers” in the chase, Morrissey said. 

State police saw the cruiser traveling northbound on Route 3 and joined the pursuit.

Morrissey said the suspect entered Burgin Parkway in Quincy at 7:22 a.m., and state police deployed a BearCat armored vehicle that was able to “come up next to the vehicle and try to engage the individual in an attempt to stop the chase.”

Authorities closed the parkway to traffic, while MBTA Red Line service was suspended between Braintree and Wollaston stations.

After an hour of authorities attempting to negotiate with him, the suspect was able to restart the cruiser and continued down the parkway, Morrissey said. Using stop sticks in the roadway and two BearCats, authorities were able to stop the suspect a second time outside a BJ’s gas station upon colliding with the stolen cruiser, prosecutors said.

Investigators will review the decision made by police to shoot the suspect, prosecutors said.

Negotiations with the suspect continued at the second location with a trained state police team, according to Morrissey.

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“During the verbal negotiations, the police observed the suspect in control of a police patrol rifle,” he said. “Despite the numerous requests to surrender, the suspect started to come out of the passenger door armed with the patrol rifle. The State Police STOP team member discharged his weapon and shot the suspect.”

He was pronounced dead at 10:15 a.m.

Police surround the stolen Rockland police cruiser.

Morrissey would not say whether the suspect pointed the rifle at a law enforcement officer.

“I’m not going to get into that at this time,” he said. “They’re still gathering statements and doing work.”

Asked whether there were any indicators that police did not abide by proper protocol in shooting the suspect, Morrissey said officials would review the decisions made by law enforcement at the scene.

“Their job is to keep all of us safe, and those people, I think they tried to clear people out of the area,” Morrissey said. “They’re faced with an armed suspect. They have decisions to make, and those decisions will be reviewed over the next few days. That’s all I can tell you.”

Investigators declined to comment on questions pertaining to the nature of the negotiations and what was said between police and the suspect.

According to Llewellyn, the suspect was able to access the patrol rifle, a semi-automatic weapon, by bending metal brackets that keep it secure and typically only allow officers access.

Rockland police policy requires officers to lock cruisers after exiting them, he said. The cruisers are not equipped with a remote disable feature.

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“We employ human beings so you can imagine that the stress of the moment, and the adrenaline rush that (the officer) was going through trying to catch this robbery suspect, he just forgot to lock the cruiser,” Llewellyn said.

The officer went home following the incident and was “pretty distraught,” Llewellyn said. He will be given a few days off before returning to work and reviewing department procedures, he said.

“But again, I don’t fault him for, you know, really going out there and chasing somebody with a gun,” Llewellyn said. “Not something everybody does when they get up in the morning.”

An Abington police officer was hospitalized as a result of the chase. 

An Abington police officer who assisted in Friday morning’s pursuit was hospitalized after he lost control of his vehicle, struck a utility pole, and rolled over, Abington police said in a statement.

“The officer is doing great and we suspect he will be released from the hospital soon,” the department said.

Llewellyn said a Weymouth officer also crashed on Route 3 in the pursuit, but added he was told the officer was doing well.

Rockland police are still searching for the weapon used in the alleged armed robbery.

As of Friday afternoon, Rockland police were canvassing the area where the suspect was seen in an attempt to locate the handgun reported during the robbery, according to Llewellyn.

“We have two gun detection dogs in town right now that have been working since the crime this morning,” he said. “They’re still actively seeking, and we’re going door to door to the neighbors in the area, searching the neighborhood, and the route that we know he took because our canine … tracked him.”

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Investigators did not know if the suspect had the handgun when he entered the cruiser, but the weapon was not located.

“We do have a great description of it, and that’s why we’re working so hard right now to find it,” Llewellyn said. “But again, that could have been tossed out anywhere here in Rockland or anywhere between here and Quincy.”

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