WINTHROP — A chaotic and deadly scene erupted Saturday afternoon in this seaside town when an armed man crashed a hijacked truck into a building, then turned on two bystanders and shot them dead before being killed by police.
Police were still reconstructing the chain of events last night, and police said they were looking into whether one of the two bystanders engaged the truck hijacker after the accident, which leveled the building.
Authorities did not identify the suspect but said they believe he was armed with multiple weapons. The victims were also not identified.
WCVB-TV reported Saturday night that one of the victims was a retired State Police trooper. Video broadcast by the station depicted police and other public safety officers lining the street outside the state medical examiner’s office in Boston’s South End, as the body was escorted there.
In addition to three dead, three others were being treated in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, a spokeswoman said. One was in fair condition and the other two in good condition, an MGH spokeswoman said.
Officials said the suspect stole the truck from a plumbing and drain company and crashed into the building at the corner of Cross and Shirley streets a little before 3 p.m.
After the crash, Winthrop police Chief Terence Delehanty said, the suspect jumped over a fence and approached the first gunshot victim, and then, in an alley between two houses, encountered the second gunshot victim.
Bob Harrington, 63, who lives across from the building destroyed in the crash, said he heard a series of loud crashes, went to his window, and saw a young man emerge from the truck. The man had no shoes on and was walking toward Veterans Road when Harrington said he lost sight of him.
“Within 10 seconds of him vanishing from my sight line from my window, I heard ‘boom, boom, boom, boom,’” he said.
Harrington said he went outside and ducked behind a vehicle as more shots were fired and smoke filled the air, making the neighborhood look like “the Wild West.”
In the road, Harrington said, he saw a woman whom he estimated to be in her 20s.
“I walked over to the girl, put my hand on her and said, ‘Are you all right?’” he said. “She didn’t move. She was dead.”
Further down the road, Harrington said he saw an officer standing over the suspect, telling him, “Stay there! Stay there!”
“He looked like he was bleeding, like they shot him,” Harrington said.
Another witness said the shooter had jumped into his car after leaving the truck and before shooting the two victims.
Paulo Correia, said the suspect approached his vehicle and climbed into the back seat.
“I thought he was just trying to get some help for himself,” Correia said in a brief telephone interview.
In a Facebook post, Correia said the man instructed him to drive.
“I told him to get out of my car...twice,” wrote Correia, who confirmed the account in the Facebook post to the Globe.
After the man exited his vehicle, Correia wrote that the man pulled out a gun and shot a pedestrian.
“I saw him shoot someone in my rearview mirror,” Correia told the Globe.
One of the first officers on the scene reported a person pinned in car, and then yelled: radio: “Shots fired! Shots fired!”
Delehanty said that two people in a passenger vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries in car crash that occurred during the incident.
Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, in an interview, said the scene covered about a quarter of a mile.
“The people who were pinned in the car were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Flanagan.
One police officer was taken to an area hospital for an evaluation but was not seriously injured, according to Winthrop police.
“I just want to start by expressing our condolences to the families of the victims,” State Police Colonel Christopher Mason said at an evening news conference. Authorities did not identify any of the victims.
Authorities Saturday night said the two gunshot victims included a woman who died of her injuries at a local hospital and a man who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The officer who shot the suspect was not seriously injured and will be placed on administrative leave during an investigation of the shooting by the Suffolk District Attorney’s office.
Parts of Winthrop police’s response to Saturday’s shootout were recorded in dramatic radio calls. One of the first officers on the scene reported a person pinned in a vehicle, and then yelled on the radio: “Shots fired! Shots fired!”
The officer reports that one person is down, apparently shot. “It looked like he had a gun, he fired it at them,” he said.
More yelling is recorded on the calls and shortly afterward, another officer reports another person injured in the shooting: “Control we got another body down, another shot victim down.”
A few minutes later, a superior officer asked what was happening; one officer responded: “Deputy, we have multiple shots fired, multiple victims down, multiple firearms on scene.”
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, police and firefighters worked around the box truck in an area that was cordoned off with yellow police tape.
Much of the building had crumbled into rubble that was strewn across the sidewalk.
About 100 feet from the crashed truck, a GMC Terrain sat on a sidewalk with most of its windows smashed out and its air bags deployed. The car’s front end and rear were damaged, and pieces of debris were scattered across the sidewalk and road. The vehicle was later removed on a flatbed truck.
Evan Ferragamo, 15, came out of his Shirley Street home when he heard a loud bang and saw the car and box truck had just crashed.
“I saw smoke coming off both cars and then I heard cracking ... and I realized the cracks were gunshots, and my first instinct was to duck and run [back] into the house,” he said. “I saw people ducking right in front of the car, and that’s when I realized it was gunshots because they’re not just going to be ducking there for nothing.”
Evan said he went back into his house to check on his mother and younger brother.
“I was in shock and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “My heart was racing, it’s still racing. ... I can’t believe that this would happen in Winthrop. It’s just a calm, quiet place.”
The box truck was pulled off the property by about 10:40 p.m. after an effort that took about two hours. A tow truck pulled from behind while another truck with an overhead crane lifted the front end of the box truck off the ground.
The truck’s cab, which was mostly hidden from view after it crashed and the building collapsed on top of it, showed heavy damage with the hood dragging on the pavement yet still attached to the truck as it was pulled onto the street.
Tree limbs, shingles and other pieces of debris from the house had piled on top of the cab in a mound of rubble.
Spectators from the neighborhood and surrounding community stood behind the police tape watching and taking pictures of the scene late into the evening.
Globe correspondent Jack Lyons contributed to this report.
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