LYNN — Law enforcement officers who shot and killed a man Sunday night believed that their lives were in danger, after one officer said he witnessed a possible illegal gun exchange and one of the suspects rammed a police cruiser with his car, authorities said Monday. Police said they later found three guns in the suspects’ cars.
But Brandon Payne’s relatives said they are not satisfied with the official explanation of why police fired at Payne’s car, striking him twice. Payne’s family and friends said the 23-year-old father of three, an aspiring rapper who also worked as a cashier at a local candy store, may have been attacked by police with lethal force because of his extensive criminal history.
“I do believe they went after my grandson because they knew who he was and knew he had a troubled past,” said Pearline Miller, 70. “Out of five people, nobody else got shot, nobody but one person.”
In response to the family’s comments, a spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney’s office would only say that the incident, involving three Lynn police officers and a state trooper, was under investigation.
“The district attorney is investigating the justifiability of the shooting as per protocol,” said Carrie Kimball-Monahan. “The facts and circumstances of the shooting are still under investigation. Once the investigation is complete, we will release our findings.”
According to a police report filed in court, at around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, a Lynn police officer in an unmarked cruiser was watching the white Chevrolet that Payne was driving, believing that a drug deal was about to take place.
The officer watched as a green Honda Accord pulled up, according to the report, and believed that the men in the two cars had exchanged a firearm. As the cars began to drive away, the officer followed, attempting to box them in at Ingalls Street. According to police, both cars accelerated in reverse, striking an unmarked police car that was carrying several officers, who then fired at the Chevrolet, striking Payne twice. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he died Monday morning.
“Shots were fired at the white Chevrolet and eventually it ceased moving,” Lisa Core, an assistant Essex district attorney, said during Monday’s arraignment of three men who were arrested. Police said they were searching for a fourth suspect who fled. Core said officers were “fearing for their lives.’’
Police arrested Sincere Lawson, 23, of East Orange, N.J., and Khyron Jolley, 28, and James Finley, 34, both of Lynn. The three men, described by Payne’s father as longtime friends of his son, were charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and one count of unlicensed possession of a firearm.
Police said they recovered a .357 revolver from Payne’s vehicle and a 9 millimeter handgun and pistol-grip shotgun, all loaded, from the Honda, which had been driven by Finley, according to prosecutors.
Payne’s criminal record shows charges in dozens of violent offenses since 1999. Payne served 2½ years in jail on a 2006 conviction on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. But most of the approximately 60 offenses on his record, including attempted murder in May 2010, were dismissed.
His family acknowledged his troubled past, but said he was a protective brother and loving father who had recently turned his life around.
About a dozen friends and family gathered Monday morning outside the home of O.C. Payne, Brandon’s father. Standing by the curb, the elder Payne said he was still waiting to hear a full explanation from police of the circumstances leading to his son’s death. “It’s just hard to see my son go,” he said. “Don’t make no sense.”
Robert Reynolds, Payne’s stepbrother, stopped by Ingalls Street Monday to pay his respects. Pieces of yellow police tape hung on a fence nearby, and shards of shattered windshield glass littered the street.
Reynolds, 27, said news reports he saw that depicted Payne as a criminal painted an incomplete portrait. “Any problems on the street he left outside,” Reynolds said.
In court Monday, Judge James LaMothe ordered cash bail of $10,000 cash for Finley and $15,000 for Jolley, and revoked Jolley’s bail on a case pending in Quincy District Court. Lawson was scheduled for a bail argument Tuesday, and Jolley and Finley are due back in court on Aug. 21.
The three Lynn police officers and the state trooper involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave with pay until the investigation is complete.
Brian R. Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.