ACLU joins victim’s family, seeks independent inquiry in Boston police shooting
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and three other civil rights groups are demanding an independent judicial inquiry into the death of a Quincy man who was shot and killed last month after a wild chase with Boston police.
In a letter to Attorney General Martha Coakley this week, the organizations cited news reports they say raise questions about Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz’s objectivity in investigating the death of Mark Joseph McMullen, 44, an African-American who was shot by a white Boston police officer.
The civil rights groups said communities of color are generally suspicious of law enforcement’s ability to investigate officers accused of wrongdoing. In this case, Cruz made comments to news outlets at the time of the incident that the ACLU said could indicate bias. The groups urged Coakley to help restore public confidence by requiring that an inquest be convened before a judge in district court.
“It is extremely important that this incident is investigated by an independent authority,’’ said the letter, which is signed by representatives from the ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts, Boston branch of the NAACP, National Police Accountability Project, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
Neither Cruz nor Coakley would comment on the letter, citing the ongoing investigation.
The letter was sent in support of a letter last month by McMullen’s widow, Maria McMullen Fernandes, who had requested her husband’s autopsy records and urged a judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading to his death.
Her lawyer, Hector E. Pineiro of Worcester, said an autopsy has been completed, but the results have not been shared with the family.
“His family would like this completed so they can bury him,’’ said Pineiro in a phone interview.
On Sept. 7, McMullen led police on a high-speed pursuit that allegedly began with a hit and run in Roxbury and ended violently in Rockland an hour later. An officer shot McMullen in the chest after police said he rammed at least two cruisers in an attempt to escape.
Two Boston police Special Operations officers were believed to be involved in the shooting, officials said, but it was unclear who fired the deadly shot. The officials identified one of the officers as Chris Carr, a highly respected patrolman who was commended for bravery in 2006 when he wrestled a handgun from a suspect.
McMullen died at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth of gunshot wounds to the neck and torso, according to his death certificate. An obituary provided by the family said he lived in Quincy with his wife and 1-year-old son Simon.
“This was a very dangerous event that had to be dealt with,’’ Cruz was quoted in the Globe as saying at the time of the incident.
Pineiro and the ACLU took issue with his comment, saying it could be interpreted as though Cruz has already reached a conclusion in the case.
“This an example of the fox taking care of the chicken coop,’’ said Paneiro. “The comment . . . tells you what the outcome of this investigation is going to be.’’
Sarah R. Wunsch, acting legal director for the ACLU Foundation of Massachusetts, said Cruz works closely with police and his comment could add to the distrust certain communities have with authorities.
“It raises questions about his ability to be impartial, and therefore we think the court should’’ intervene, she said.
Stephanie Soriano-Mills, an attorney for the NAACP, said an independent inquiry would remove any appearance of conflict and establish a sense of fairness.
“Anytime you have law enforcement investigating law enforcement there is an inherent appearance of conflict that is present,’’ she said. “When you have an independent board reviewing such incidents you can help rebuild any kind of distrust in the community.’’