Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden said Tuesday he is reviewing nine deadly force encounters in Boston, Chelsea, and Revere dating back to 2017 and will charge police officers criminally if he concludes it is warranted.
Hayden succeeded Rachael Rollins in January after she became US attorney for Massachusetts. Rollins departed without issuing judgments on a case she inherited from a predecessor plus the seven incidents that occurred during her tenure, starting with Feb. 22, 2019, when Kasim Kahrim was killed in Roxbury after police said he wounded Boston police Officer Mark Whalen.
Whalen and his partner, Officer William Hull, were awarded the Medal of Honor as part of the state’s Hanna Awards for 2019, long considered the highest honor for law enforcement in the state.
There has been one fatal encounter since Hayden became DA.
Hayden, who was chair of the state’s Sex Offender Registry Board before Governor Charlie Baker chose him to succeed Rollins, said in an interview Tuesday that a significant amount of investigative work was conducted into several of the incidents by the previous administration, but none were completed.
“I understand that some of these were very, very near completion,” he said. “But it was my obligation to do a complete, thorough, independent review that I’m putting my name on, and that I’m comfortable with putting my name on.”
Asked Tuesday by the Globe about the cases during her tenure as DA, Rollins said in a statement that she had “incredibly difficult and private conversations” with relatives of those killed during a confrontation with police, describing to them the legal hurdles of charging an officer with a crime especially when the other person was armed, as happened in the majority of Suffolk County cases. She also said she met with police officers “who were shot, stabbed, or harmed during these violent encounters” as well as their relatives.
Rollins said the Discharge Integrity Team she created after the Kahrim shooting was the first of its kind, and its work was responsible for deciding to charge a State Police trooper criminally for a nonfatal shooting.
“I am confident that each of the families whose loved one died in Suffolk County know, because I told them, that the deadly encounter they had with law enforcement was a tragedy, but likely was not a crime,” she wrote. “Any blame regarding lack of publication is mine alone.”
Hayden, who is running for a full term in the Democratic primary against City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, formerly worked as an assistant district attorney in the office he now leads. Hayden said decisions of criminal responsibility would be made “carefully and meticulously in each and every case.”
“We are going to follow the facts to a just and right and appropriate end no matter who the potential person being charged is,” he said.
Hayden said he will apply that same approach to his inquiry into the most recent fatal encounter, Saturday’s shooting of 48-year-old Richard Ortiz. Ortiz allegedly stabbed a Boston police officer who was investigating reports of a domestic disturbance on Glendale Street in Dorchester. A second officer fatally wounded Ortiz, officials said.
“We are in the very early stages of that investigation,” he said.
In addition to the death of Kahrim, the deadly force cases Hayden inherited are:
— May 22, 2017. Kelly Pastrana exchanged gunfire with officers from Chelsea and other police agencies responding to a domestic violence call. Pastrana retreated inside a Warren Avenue home where a fire eventually started and he shot at responding firefighters. His body was found with a gunshot wound. The investigation was started by then Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and continued during the Rollins era.
— June 24, 2019. The death of 19-year-old Jaymil Ellerbee on Penhallow Street in Dorchester. Boston police said Ellerbee opened fire on officers and refused to drop his weapon despite repeatedly being urged by police to do so. Police recovered a pistol after the gunfire ended.
Ellerbee’s mother, Malinda Rose Walsh, regularly pleaded with Boston defense attorney Michael Tumposky, whom the family had hired to represent them, for information on the circumstances surrounding her son’s death. Tumposky said he had to repeatedly tell Walsh the district attorney’s office said it was still working on its inquiry.
Tumposky said he met with the family on the second anniversary of the shooting, but Walsh passed away some months ago, Tumposky said. “She died without really knowing what happened, without getting her answers.”
— Aug. 4, 2019. Oscar Ventura-Gonzalez, 32, was fatally shot by Everett police officers who followed him into Revere. Ventura-Gonzalez was a Lynn resident.
— Sept. 28, 2019. Isaac Rasheed Smith, 37, was shot on Wyman Street in Jamaica Plain when Boston police were fired upon while investigating a domestic violence call at a bed-and-breakfast. One officer fired one round through a window and Smith was later found dead inside the residence, where he lived and worked.
— June 26, 2021. Nathan Allen, 28, was killed in an exchange of gunfire with a Winthrop police sergeant after Allen killed Air Force veteran Ramona Cooper and retired State Trooper David Green during a racist rampage in Winthrop. Both Cooper and Green were Black.
— Nov. 7, 2021. Michael A. Quarrles was fatally shot by Boston police responding to a domestic violence call on 27 Ingleside St. in Dorchester, where the 37-year-old Quarrles was living with relatives. He was living at the same address on March 2, 2018, when he got into a violent confrontation with officers responding to a domestic violence call made by a relative.
— Nov. 9, 2021. Dashaun Wright died during a violent confrontation with Boston police who had been called to 29 Ferndale St. in Dorchester after Wright began threatening residents. Wright, 37, allegedly shot and wounded three police officers before he was fatally shot.
The shooting of Juston Root on Feb. 7, 2020, is also being examined by Hayden’s office but it is not being considered a deadly force case for Suffolk prosecutors. Root, 41, pointed a fake gun at a Boston police outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Feb. 7, 2020 and was wounded by police who also wounded a parking valet.
Root then led police on a four-mile chase across that ended when he crashed at a Brookline shopping center where he was fatally shot by multiple police officers. Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey reviewed the use of deadly force because Brookline is in his county and concluded the use of force “was objectively reasonable.”
Root’s sister, Jennifer Root Bannon, told the Globe this week she’s greatly disappointed to see the investigation associated with her brother’s case languishing before the Suffolk DA’s office.
“We do not believe that anyone could find these delays and excuses reasonable or acceptable. How did our leaders permit this to occur?” Root Bannon said in a statement. “Approximately two years ago we asked local and statewide leaders for an independent investigation. What are they waiting for?”