QUINCY — A chaotic episode came to a tragic end here Friday morning when a State Police trooper fatally shot a man who had allegedly robbed a Rockland store at gunpoint and then stole a police cruiser, leading authorities on a chase through several South Shore communities before exiting the vehicle with a police patrol rifle in both hands, prompting the trooper to open fire, officials said.
The incident lasted several hours and resulted in the minor injuries of police officers in Abington and Weymouth, damage to at least three cruisers, and the suspension of the MBTA’s Red Line and commuter rail service for South Shore residents during the Friday morning commute.
During a morning briefing, Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey provided some details of the final confrontation in Quincy near the intersection of Burgin Parkway and Quincy Street.
Morrissey said the 36-year-old man, who was identified by Morrissey’s office Friday evening as Eric M. Leach, who had past addresses in Brockton and Winthrop, was still in the stolen police SUV when it was trapped between armored vehicles known as Bearcats. Police were speaking with Leach and saw as he put his hands on the patrol rifle installed in the cruiser.
Police repeatedly ordered him to drop the patrol rifle, Morrissey said.
“Despite numerous requests to surrender, the suspect started to come out of the passenger door armed with the patrol rifle,” Morrissey said. At that point, a member of the State Police STOP team fired once, mortally wounding the man, Morrissey said.
Leach was later pronounced dead at Boston Medical Center, Morrissey said.
Morrissey said Leach robbed a Rockland 7-Eleven store around 7 a.m. “armed with a reported handgun.” The prosecutor said the suspect fled the store with an undetermined amount of cash.
Following the alleged 7-Eleven robbery, Morrissey said, Rockland police “immediately began a search and a chase,” by foot and auto.
Morrissey said Leach “was able to enter a Rockland police cruiser.” He then sped off in the police SUV into Weymouth and Abington and started driving north on Route 18 with police from several communities in pursuit.
Leach “struck a number of police cruisers of local departments,” Morrissey said.
During a later briefing, Rockland police Chief John R. Llewellyn told reporters how Leach allegedly managed to commandeer the marked cruiser.
Llewellyn said Leach entered the store at 92 Market St. around 6:15 a.m. and “took his time” perusing items while waiting for two other customers to leave. Then, the chief said, Leach allegedly pointed a handgun at two female clerks and demanded money, making off with around $334 and fleeing on foot.
One of the customers, who later reentered the store to cash a winning scratch ticket and heard about the robbery from the employees, followed Leach up Highland Street and provided a description to police, Llewellyn said.
Valarie, an employee at the 7-Eleven who declined to give her last name, said during a brief interview at the store Friday afternoon that it was busy when Leach initially entered the premises, so she didn’t notice anything amiss right away.
She described the situation as “crazy” and said she was “very scared” when Leach pulled out a gun. She “gave him what he wanted and sent him on his way,” she told a reporter.
As police responded to the store, Llewellyn said, authorities got 911 calls alerting them to a suspicious person running around yards by Brookside Road about a half mile away.
“One of the officers spotted the suspect, got out of his car, approached him, told him to get on the ground,” he 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.”
The veteran officer Tased Leach , but it did not work because he was wearing a heavy sweatshirt, the chief said.
A foot pursuit ensued, which two additional officers joined, Llewellyn said.
Leach made it to the front of the houses and came out to one of the cruisers parked on Brookside Road and got into the vehicle, the chief 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, then sped toward the officers.”
The officers stepped aside and pursued Leach in their cruiser. The pursuit, the chief said, spanned Rockland, Norwell, Hanover, Weymouth, and Abington before the stolen cruiser was stopped in Quincy.
According to Abington police, one of their officers was rushed to a hospital after crashing his vehicle during the chase. The officer was to be released from the hospital later Friday, the department said.
According to Morrissey, in the area of the Burgin Parkway exit in Quincy, State Police used an armored vehicle known as a Bearcat to stop the vehicle. Over the next hour, Leach remained in the cruiser while members of the State Police STOP team and a trained negotiator talked with Leach, he said.
Leach was then able to get the SUV driving again and sped off down Burgin Parkway into Quincy, pursued by the State Police Bearcat and numerous State, Quincy, and Rockland marked cruisers. Quincy police had also dispatched its Bearcat.
Police had also deployed stop sticks, which puncture the tires of cars, on Burgin Parkway. Leach drove over the sticks, shredding the tires, but he continued to drive the vehicle until police trapped the stolen SUV between the two armed vehicles near Burgin Parkway and Quincy Street, officials said.
Negotiations resumed, Morrissey said. But they ended with the single gunshot when Leach allegedly tried to leave the cruiser with the patrol rifle, which is commonly a compact version of the military M-16 combat rifle.
Morrissey said medics on scene at the time “rendered immediate medical assistance to the suspect. .... It’s unfortunate that anybody was shot by anyone.”The last thing that I think a police officer wants to do is be involved in a police-related shooting.”
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this story.