WOBURN — Reading police Officer Erik Drauschke — the first officer to be criminally charged for an on-duty killing in the state in nearly three decades — was acquitted Monday of manslaughter related to the February 2018 shooting of an unarmed man in a junkyard.
A Middlesex Superior Court jury deliberated for about eight hours over two days before finding Drauschke not guilty of a crime for fatally shooting 43-year-old Alan Greenough.
More than two dozen supporters sat behind Drauschke in the courtroom, including his wife, relatives, and fellow law enforcement officers. Upon hearing the verdict, they gasped, clapped, and broke into tears.
“We’re grateful for the jury considering the evidence and finding what we found is the right verdict,” Drauschke’s lawyer, Kenneth Anderson, said after the trial. “We just question kind of why we’re here to begin with. There’s certainly cases that there are police officers whose conduct should be questioned, but we don’t feel this is one of those cases, and we’re glad that finally he was vindicated after four long years.”
Drauschke held his wife in a long embrace after the judge and jury left the courtroom before trading back slaps and bear hugs with his fellow officers.
“Sorry you had to go through this,” one officer told Drauschke.
“Thank you guys, it means so much,” Drauschke responded.
Reading police Chief David Clark issued a statement after the verdict.
“The decision to use deadly force against a human being is the most difficult moment in the life of any police officer, and I know that Officer Drauschke will carry the burden of having made that choice,” Clark said in the statement. “This is a solemn moment, regardless of the verdict, and I would like to thank the jury for their thoughtful consideration of the facts in this case.”
Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Thomas A. Brant left court without comment Monday. District Attorney Marian T. Ryan did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Greenough’s mother, Catherine Rawson, and brother, Anthony Perrotti, accompanied by a victim’s advocate, showed no reaction to the verdict. After the jury was excused, they silently filed out of the courtroom.
Their civil attorney, Victor Koufman, said the family continues to grieve their loss, which the trial and verdict compounded.
“While the family is extremely disappointed with the verdict, they respect the jury process and thank the jurors for their service,” Koufman said in an e-mail. “Mr. Drauschke’s actions on February 3, 2018, were unprofessional and reckless. Had he waited for his colleagues to arrive at the vehicle where Alan was huddling, the matter would have been resolved without bloodshed. Alan should not have died.”
Koufman said the family hoped the Reading Police Department “will not pass off this incident as a victory for law enforcement.”
“Rather, police officers should use this horrible case as an opportunity to improve their methods when responding to a crisis,” Koufman said.
Drauschke, who had been on the force for 11 years when the shooting occurred, was indicted in 2020 after Middlesex prosecutors sought an independent review by a judge, an unusual move in Massachusetts.
Brant, the prosecutor, told jurors in his opening statements that as many as eight officers were on scene with Drauschke the day of the shooting at an apartment attached to East Coast Gas and Auto Repair at 1462 Main St. They were there to arrest Greenough for domestic battery and assault of his roommates, Brant said.
Drauschke, who was 36 at the time, failed to wait for any of his fellow officers to provide backup when he spotted Greenough in a red Hummer in the tightly packed junkyard behind the gas station, Brant said. Drauschke opened the Hummer’s door, he said.
When Greenough got out, with his hands jammed into his sweatshirt pockets, he cursed, refused to show his hands, and repeatedly said, “Shoot me,” Brant said.
Drauschke fired twice at close range, he said.
Drauschke’s defense lawyers argued their client “did what any reasonable officer would do” when faced with an evasive suspect who refused to show his hands.
“What he did was consistent with his training,” Anderson said in his opening statement.
“You have to put yourself in the place of a police officer in a rapidly changing, intense, dangerous situation,” he said.
When police arrived on scene, Greenough had smashed furniture in the apartment, wielded a table leg and taunted police with it, Anderson said. He then escaped through a back window.
Hunched at the wheel of the Hummer, Greenough posed an unknown threat, and refused to comply with repeated orders to show his hands, Anderson said. When Greenough got out of the vehicle he stood “within lunging range” of Drauschke, he said.
“This was a quick decision that he had to make, and he made the right decision,” Anderson said.
Greenough’s family had pressed the authorities for years to take action and raised questions about the secrecy around the shooting and ensuing investigation, leading to the judicial inquest.
After the Sept. 23, 2020, indictment, Drauschke was placed on unpaid leave. It was not immediately known if or when Drauschke would be returning to the force.
Drauschke’s indictment marked the first time a law enforcement officer had been charged with an on-duty death since 1991, when a Boston police officer, James E. Hall, was arrested and later convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Christopher Rogers, an unarmed Dorchester 16-year-old.