Officers from the Boston and Everett police departments were legally justified when they shot and killed two men on separate occasions in Roxbury and Revere in 2019, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden ruled Monday.
In two separate findings, Hayden concluded the officers acted to protect themselves or members of the public from potentially fatal harm. Hayden inherited both cases from now-US Attorney Rachael Rollins who apparently reached a conclusion, but did not make her findings public before taking the federal post.
Hayden has since done his own review of both instances and reached the same conclusion.
Boston police were justified in using deadly force on Feb. 22, 2019, when two officers encountered 36-year-old Kasim Kahrim dozing behind the driver’s wheel of a vehicle pulled over in the Mass. and Cass neighborhood of Roxbury.
Hayden separately decided that Everett police were also justified in using deadly force when an officer fired a single shot fatally wounding Oscar Ventura-Gonzalez on Aug. 4, 2019, after a high-speed chase from Everett into Revere where Ventura-Gonzalez rammed police cruisers.
“Our office moved forward with all these investigations with the utmost respect for all those affected by these traumatic events,’’ Hayden said in a statement Monday. “We met with the families of those killed, the officers involved and their respective departments regarding these findings in advance of releasing them to the public. These were thorough, meticulous investigations conducted with one primary goal — to gather and review all the relevant facts.”
He added, “we are now releasing those findings to the public to ensure transparency and promote the public’s trust and engagement.”
A lawyer representing Sharice Richardson — the mother of Kahrim’s child — questioned why it took more than three years for prosecutors to reach the conclusion that police were justified in using deadly force.
“There’s nothing in that report that would take three years,” Carlton Williams told The Boston Globe Monday in a telephone interview. “I think that there’s pretty serious pieces missing.”
For one, evidence of body-camera footage has been lacking, Williams said.
“Where’s the body camera? Was there a body camera? Was there a secondary body camera? Were those body cameras on? And also, if they weren’t on, why is that? That seems like it should have been documented.”
Boston police began using body worn cameras on a department wide basis on June 3, 2019.
Specifically, Hayden found that:
— Boston police Officer William Hull lawfully acted to defend himself and partner, Officer Mark Whalen, on Feb. 22, 2019, when he shot and killed Kahrim. Kahrim twice fired at Whalen with a .357 caliber pistol, hitting the officer in his right hand. Hull fired 20 times in response, hitting Kahrim a total of eight times, according to Hayden’s report.
The report provided new details of the fatal encounter that began around 2:15 a.m. that morning. The officers were in uniform and in a marked cruiser when they spotted a minivan with its engine running and the driver slumped over the steering wheel, apparently unconscious.
Aware of the widespread drug use in the area where first responders have often deployed Narcan to counteract overdoses, the officers rapped on the driver’s side window. Kahrim appeared to be asleep and was startled to see police outside his car.
Kahrim handed over his driver’s license, which was active. They returned the license to Kahrim after also learning he been convicted of illegal possession of a firearm. Police asked him to step out of the car when he appeared to be holding an object in his right hand that police feared might be a gun, according to the report.
Kahrim refused. Hull opened the driver’s side door and Whelan leaned inside. “Officer Whalen grabbed Mr. Kahrim’s left hand and Mr. Kahrim pulled Officer Whalen towards the inside area of the car,” the prosecutors said. “Officer Whalen also observed a revolver in Mr. Kahrim’s right hand. Mr. Kahrim held his arm at a 90-degree angle against his stomach and pointed the firearm at Officer Whalen while firing.”
Whelan was struck in his right hand and was no longer able to hold onto his service weapon and moved first to the rear of the minivan and then behind the cruiser for safety. “Officer Hull then discharged his firearm multiple times in the direction of Mr. Kahrim,” the prosecutors concluded.
Hull emptied his service weapon and reloaded as he joined Whelan at the rear of the cruiser and fired another five to six times when he saw the rear lights activate on the minivan indicating that the vehicle was moving toward police.
Kahrim drove off and crashed on George Street. He was pronounced dead at the scene and the .357 pistol was recovered at his feet, prosecutors said.
An autopsy showed Kahrim had eight bullet wounds and a blood alcohol level of .13 percent.
— In regard to a second use-of-force case, Hayden personally signed the report on the death of 32-year-old Ventura-Gonzalez in Revere. He was shot once by Everett police Officer Alex Vieira, who had pursued him into Revere, ending a high-speed chase that covered 2.5 miles on Aug. 4, 2019.
“When Officer Vieira stopped his cruiser in front of Mr. Ventura, Mr. Ventura rammed Officer Vieira’s cruiser from behind. Officer Vieira then exited his cruiser and ordered Mr. Ventura to stop. Mr. Ventura disengaged his vehicle from the back of Officer Vieira’s cruiser and drove directly at Officer Vieira,’’ Hayden wrote. “Fearing that he would not be able to get out of the way of Mr. Ventura’s vehicle, Officer Vieira backed up and fired a single round at Mr. Ventura striking him in the torso.”
According to Hayden, Ventura-Gonzalez was suffering from depression and anxiety and was reported missing to Lynn police on May 23, 2019, by his sister, who described him as someone who was a “danger to himself [and] suffers from mental illness,” according to the report. Ventura-Gonzalez returned home two days later.
According to the report, neither Ventura-Gonzalez, nor his family, had any contact with authorities until Aug. 4 when Ventura-Gonzalez drove past Vieira at a high rate of speed around midnight in Everett.
Vieira, a Marine veteran, got out of his cruiser intent on arresting Ventura-Gonzalez for motor vehicle violations among other issues. Ventura-Gonzalez drove toward Vieira, Hayden said in the report.
“Realizing that he was not going to be able to get out of the path of Mr. Ventura’s vehicle and fearing that Mr. Ventura was going to run him over, Officer Vieira reversed direction and backed up against the side of his cruiser. As he did so, he fired a single round through the passengers’ side window at Mr. Ventura striking him in the upper torso,” Hayden wrote.