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Waltham police officer and utility worker were killed after being struck by vehicle, authorities say; two other workers hurt

Investigators were on the scene of the crash near 166 Totten Pond Road late into Wednesday night.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

WALTHAM — A veteran police officer and a National Grid worker were killed after being struck by a vehicle at a work site on Wednesday in a crash that injured two other utility workers, law enforcement officials said.

Officer Paul J. Tracey, a decorated 28-year member of the force, was killed in the crash, Police Chief Kevin O’Connell said at a press conference Wednesday night.

The National Grid worker, a 36-year-old man from Cambridge, was not named pending the notification of his kin, officials said.

The driver, Peter J. Simon, 54, of Woodsville, N.H., was arrested after allegedly running away from the crash on Totten Pond Road, a major commercial and residential road off Route 128, and stealing a police cruiser, officials said.

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Simon is facing two counts of manslaughter and an armed robbery charge and may face additional charges, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said. He is likely to be arraigned in Waltham District Court on Thursday.

Around 4 p.m., Simon was driving a pickup truck eastbound on Totten Pond Road when he abruptly pulled onto the shoulder and tried to make a U-turn, Ryan said. After hitting a Jeep, he drove about a quarter mile and struck Tracey, who was working a utility detail, and three National Grid workers, Ryan said. Simon ran away from the crash, heading uphill into a neighborhood where he encountered a Waltham police officer.

Simon allegedly pulled a knife on the officer and stole his cruiser. He crashed on Winter Street and tried again to run away before officers caught up with him.

“It’s important to remember that these two men were doing their job at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when they were killed,” Ryan said. “Crashes like this happen far too often. It reminds us all of the danger that officers and workers face when they are out on the roadways performing their jobs.”

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The “tremendous sense of loss” is especially poignant “at the beginning of the holiday season,” Ryan added.

Tracey, who lived in Waltham, is married to Officer Kristin Tracey, who has been assigned as the resource officer for the Waltham schools, according to officials and a department profile.

“Tonight, I stand before you on behalf of the men and women in the Waltham Police Department with the heaviest of hearts,” O’Connell said, his voice breaking at times. “Paul Tracey served this great city with distinction. He was a compassionate police officer who always looked out for the underdog. He was an amazing husband, a loving father.”

He asked for privacy for the Tracey family “to give them time to grieve, but also keep them in your prayers.”

Tracey ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 3 City Council seat last month. In an election questionnaire sent to Patch.com, Tracey wrote that one of his key priorities was to open the grounds of the long-closed Fernald School as open space.

“Politics is solving people’s problems. I’ve been solving problems as a municipal employee for 28 years. I drive the streets every day and evening. I hit the same potholes, see the same leaning and double telephone poles and street lights that are either not working or never shut off. So I send emails or make telephone calls to see if these matters can be solved,” he wrote. “I’m not afraid to say that I am from Waltham and know the history very very well. I attended the schools and have been employed here most of my entire adult life.”

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Police procession for Waltham Police officer Paul Tracey outside the Medical Examiner's office last night.Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

A spokesperson for National Grid said a worker in the company’s gas division died from his injuries.

“Our immediate priority is ensuring we are doing everything we can to support this colleague’s family, loved ones and his teammates,” Robert Kievra said.

One of the workers was treated and released from a hospital, according to Ryan’s office.

Police cruisers, a fire truck, and other emergency vehicles remained on the scene late into the night. Floodlights illuminated the area as investigators combed the area for evidence.

On the side of the road, two wrecked cars, a silver sedan, and a silver pickup truck, faced each other head-on, sitting across from a bright orange diamond-shaped sign warning drivers of “utility work ahead.”

A National Grid utility truck and a front loader were parked nearby. Representatives from the company were also at the scene, and investigators took photos of the wrecked pickup truck.

Meanwhile, in Boston, a quieter scene played out. Police cruisers, SUVs, and other emergency vehicles lined Albany Street, near the state medical examiner’s office. They were awaiting the arrival of the deceased officer’s body, where an autopsy will be conducted. But shortly before 10 p.m., the cars dispersed, after an officer on scene said the body would not be arriving Wednesday night.

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Law enforcement agencies took to social media to express condolences.

“Sad news out of Waltham,” the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association wrote on X. “Officer working a public safety detail was struck and killed by a motor vehicle earlier this evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with our brother and sister officers in Waltham and all impacted by this terrible tragedy.”

“We offer our most sincere condolences to the men and women of the Waltham police,” the MBTA Transit Police Department said in a post on X. “Our thoughts & prayers are with our brother officer’s family, friends and loved ones. R.I.P.”

Newton police placed a Waltham Police Department badge with a black stripe, a symbol of mourning in law enforcement, on its Facebook page.

“On behalf of the Newton Police Department we would like to send our thoughts and prayers to the Waltham MA Police Department for the loss of one of their own tonight. We also extend our prayers for recovery to the members of National Grid US workers who were also injured in this evenings incident,” the department wrote.

Mike Bello of the Globe staff contributed to this story.


Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com. Follow her @talanez. Grace Gilson can be reached at grace.gilson@globe.com. Maeve Lawler can be reached at maeve.lawler@globe.com. Follow her @maeve_lawler.