Published in the September 3, 2015 edition
NORTH READING — Chief Michael P. Murphy praised the diligent work and restraint shown by members of the North Reading Police Department in safely subduing a disturbed man who was allegedly trying to commit “suicide by cop” by provoking a lethal force reaction out of officers.
“Police officers on Monday morning encountered a dangerous situation, with an armed subject, in public, trying to provoke a lethal response,” Chief Murphy said, “but the proper training, quick thinking and patience exercised by the officers at the scene prevented the loss of life and prevented the subject, the officers and members of the public from being harmed. The officers did an excellent job in the face of extremely difficult and stressful circumstances.”
North Reading Police received a call at 5:45 a.m. Monday from a man in his early 30s who told the officer on the line that he was on foot and armed with a knife and that he wanted to die. The officer engaged the individual in conversation until units arrived to his location, a typically busy commercial section of Main Street, near Kingston Street.
Upon arrival, officers engaged the man in conversation from a distance of 10–15 yards, remaining calm and patient. They talked with the suspect for 45 minutes. During that time, the individual displayed a knife, waved it around at the officers and told the officers that he wanted them to shoot him.
Officers on the scene were Keith Lamont, David DiFraia, Jason Connolly, Michael Hennessey and Sergeant Paul Dorsey Jr. Chief Michael Murphy, Lt. Thomas Rome and Detective Thomas Hatch were all notified and responded. The Fire Department was standing by at Cota’s Funeral Home.
The decision was made to request mutual aid from the Andover Police Department, whose officers carry the Taser brand electronic control weapon. (The North Reading Police Department will deploy the same, less lethal Taser devices later this year, once all officers are properly trained.)
A crowd eventually began to gather and the man became animated, yelling at passers–by that they should video record the situation because the police were about to shoot and kill him.
At that point, as morning traffic began to pick up and given the uncertainty of the situation with an agitated subject, officers decided to deploy the Taser. The Taser immediately brought the subject down and officers were able to disarm and detain him. He was evaluated by EMS staff before being taken to an area hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He was not injured.
The individual’s name is not being released at this time.