An investigation into a 2015 incident where a Massachusetts state police trooper fatally shot a knife-wielding man in Boston has determined the officer was acting in self defense and the defense of others, according to the district attorney.
Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley released hundreds of pages of interviews, more than 450 photos, dispatch recordings, video clips and more in announcing the findings of the 2-year investigation on Wednesday.
Santos Laboy, 45, of Somerville, was shot and killed by Trooper Andrew Patterson on June 19, 2015, as he approached the trooper with a knife on the Silber Way Footbridge near Boston University.
The district attorney's investigation found that Patterson was retreating from Laboy when he fired, and only fired after Laboy refused numerous commands from multiple officers to stop and drop his weapon.
Laboy died at the scene. He had a long record and outstanding warrants, and had previously spent time in prison. At the time of the shooting, he was being sought by Boston University police in connection with an earlier investigation.
"After a careful consideration of the facts and the law, I have determined that, under the circumstances, Trooper Patterson’s use of force was a lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others," Conley wrote, citing Massachusetts law related to the use of lethal force in self defense and rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
Conley also noted that Laboy was about 20 to 25 feet away from Patterson when he fired his gun, a distance that the trooper had a reasonable belief could be crossed in less time than would allow him to defend himself, and that Patterson was aware of a potential risk to the crowd behind him were Laboy able to get past him and cross the bridge to Back Street.
Massachusetts State Police Col. Richard McKeon issued a statement Wednesday in response to the findings, saying he is confident that Patterson acted appropriately, and in defense of himself and others.
“The evidence, as affirmed by the Suffolk County District Attorney today, showed that Trooper Patterson took repeated steps to try to de-escalate the confrontation and showed remarkable restraint," McKeon said. "He repeatedly commanded the suspect, Santos Laboy, to drop his weapon, to no avail. The trooper moved backward as far as possible. When the armed suspect continued to close in on Trooper Patterson, and with the trooper also concerned for the safety of a crowd of civilians behind him on the Esplanade, Trooper Patterson as a last resort fired his weapon and struck the suspect, ending the threat.
"As police officers, we never want to have to fire at a suspect. Nonetheless, in certain circumstances, when an advancing armed suspect does not comply with orders to drop his weapon, or if no other means of de-escalation are possible, doing so is necessary to protect officers and bystanders. Trooper Patterson acted in accordance with the law and his training as a Massachusetts State Trooper."
Laboy's family has only said they are heartbroken, and that at the time of the shooting he struggled with mental health issues and needed more help.