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Off-duty trooper crashes into cars

14-year veteran charged with driving under influence of drugs, alcohol

Shawn Damato, 43, is a state trooper who was off-duty when he crashed his Toyota CorollaMonday morning.

Massachusetts State Police

Shawn Damato, 43, is a state trooper who was off-duty when he crashed his Toyota CorollaMonday morning.

A decorated, 19-year veteran of the State Police faces drunken driving and other charges after crashing his personal vehicle into a colleague’s cruiser early Monday in Revere and allegedly admitting to smoking crack, officials said.

Trooper Shawn D’Amato, 42, of Revere, was off-duty when he crashed a 2013 Toyota Corolla into Trooper John Phonesavanh's cruiser in the breakdown lane on Route 1 shortly after 12:40 a.m., State Police said.

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The impact sent Phonesavanh's cruiser into the rear of a 2002 Honda Accord driven by Mario Cruz, 29, of Chelsea, who Phonesavanh had stopped for motor vehicle infractions, State Police said in a statement and in the arrest report.

All three men were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital. D’Amato pleaded not guilty from his hospital bed on Monday to charges including operating under the influence of liquor and operating under the influence of drugs.

His lawyer could not be reached for comment.

D’Amato was relieved of duty and his service weapon and other department property was secured, State Police said. He faces a duty status hearing later this week, when officials will determine if he will be suspended while the criminal case is pending.

His arrest comes about six weeks after another trooper, John J. Basler, pleaded not guilty to charges that he was driving drunk when he was involved in a September collision that killed a mother and her daughter in Plymouth.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office said in a statement that D’Amato’s speech was slurred after the crash and he smelled of alcohol.

He also allegedly told paramedics that he had smoked crack cocaine within the hour, which “EMTs relayed to State Police investigators along with their observations of apparent track marks on his arms, suggesting intravenous drug use,” Conley’s office said.

“D’Amato’s car struck the cruiser with such force that his Corolla’s airbags were deployed and his vehicle spun around and came to rest facing northbound against traffic,” Conley’s office said. “D’Amato was unresponsive and his doors were locked, so [Phonesavanh] gained access by breaking the window and laid [D’Amato] on the road in the breakdown lane.”

According to arrest report, D’Amato said “both” to a State Police sergeant who asked if he was coming from his house or returning there at the time of the crash, and he said “right here” when asked where he had been during the intervening period.

He also allegedly told paramedics that the current year is 1985, and he was combative with them and with hospital workers who treated him, the arrest report said. The nursing staff had to apply leather restraints to his arms, and State Police Sergeant Eric S. Bernstein applied leg cuffs to one ankle, Bernstein wrote in the report.

He added that two empty vodka nips and two full ones were recovered from D’Amato’s vehicle.

Jake Wark, Conley’s spokesman, said that as of Monday evening, Phonesavanh and Cruz had been released from the hospital. D’Amato remained hospitalized, Wark said, and the arrest report said he had suffered possible head injuries.

D’Amato received departmental awards in 2002 for helping to arrest a drug dealer armed with a stun gun and in 2006 for performing CPR on a woman in distress at a garage at Logan International Airport, according to State Police.

“The mixing of alcohol and/or controlled substances with the operation of a motor vehicle is not just irresponsible, it is a reckless and deliberate culmination of bad decision making that has contributed to unspeakable loss of lives, life altering injuries and incomprehensible damage to people and families,” State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben said.

“As Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police I am angered, dismayed and saddened by the alleged conduct of any member of this department who would recklessly risk the lives and safety of anyone, whether that be another police officer or an innocent member of the community we are sworn to protect.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at
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