Thirteen years after Boston police officer Sherman Griffiths was killed in a controversial drug raid, his brother William, also a Boston officer, dodged a bullet yesterday morning as he and a state trooper desperately struggled to take a gun away from a drug suspect.
As all three men wrestled, they crashed to the pavement at Charles and Stuart streets.
“And then seconds later, we hear a gun shot,” Griffiths said at police headquaters yesterday afternoon, “and all I see is the gun right here, right next to my head and right next to the trooper’s head.
“I don’t know if it was shot towards the trooper or me, but that was the end result.”
Through several long minutes Griffiths and Trooper Kevin Murray battled to disarm Angelo West, 27, who had his finger on the trigger as the gun waved in front of both officers.
Griffiths had his gun drawn and could have shot West.
“He said: `Shoot me. I don’t care,’ “ the officer recalled. “He said that numerous times. But I did it another way. We subdued him another way.”
Through it all, he never thought of his brother’s death, Griffiths said.
“Maybe on the way home,” he said. “But during . . . you had no time to think. When you’re in a situation like that, you don’t have a chance to be afraid. The only thing you’re really thinking about, you know, is just getting the weapon.”
Sherman Griffiths was gunned down in February 1988 as he tried to burst through the door of a Dorchester apartment with a team of detectives holding a no-knock search warrant. Griffiths left his wife, Deirdre, and two children.
His death sent the Boston Police Department and the city reeling over the department’s use of fictitious drug informants, falsified reports, and perjury by Sherman Griffiths’ partner, revelations that eventually led to major reforms, as well as the release of Griffiths’s killer, Albert Lewin.
In 1999, Boston police officer Thomas Griffiths, brother of William and Sherman’s, underwent preventive treatment for AIDS after he reported that he had been stabbed with a hypodermic needle while arresting a drug addict.
William Griffiths’ brush with violence came on a cool summer morning around 3, as he and officer Edmund Rautenburg patrolled the Park Square area on bicycles.
“It was a pretty quiet night,” said Griffiths.
That soon changed. Nearby, State Police had noticed West and Brent R. Stevenson engaged on Charles Street in what authorities believed was a drug deal. Trooper Kevin Young confronted Stevenson and arrested him after a chase.
Murray ran after West and grabbed him, but the 5-foot-8, 220- pound suspect wouldn’t go down. As Griffiths entered the fray, they all fell to the ground, and the shot rang out.
“Then the suspect again turned the gun this way, so it was facing me . . . and then Trooper Murray grabbed it and put his hand on it,” said Griffiths, who also grabbed the gun.
Backup arrived, but the struggle continued. “He wouldn’t give the gun up, even with everybody there,” said Griffiths.
In the end, West, who had to be treated at New England Medical Center for injuries he suffered during the struggle, was charged with two counts of armed assault with intent to murder and firearms charges. He was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail.
Stevenson, 21, was held without bail over two armed robbery cases pending against him.
After it was over, William Griffiths, who also has two half brothers on the force, spoke of how he doesn’t think about Sherman while he’s on duty.
“Whatever happened to my brother was unfortunate, but it happened,” he said. “But I don’t think about that in that situation. You just go, and you do your job.”
“It’s my job,” he said. “It provides for my family. I have a wife and three kids, so that’s what it is.”
Still, Griffiths said he was thinking of Sherman when he called his wife after the shooting to tell her he was OK.
He added: “A couple of my brothers have called, but I try not to involve them. It makes them worry.”