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Chelsea man dies after struggle with police

Apartment manager Michael Marangiello had called Chelsea police for help with tenant Dominic Graffeo. Zack Wittman for the Boston Globe

CHELSEA — A Chelsea man with a history of violent confrontations with police died Thursday night after an alleged struggle in which officers tried to subdue him with a taser and emergency medical technicians administered a drug for reversing opiate overdoses, authorities said.

Dominic Graffeo was pronounced dead at Whidden Memorial Hospital in Everett at 8:30 p.m. after the confrontation, which began when police were called to his residence after receiving a report of an emotionally disturbed person, according to Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.

The state medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of his death, which is being investigated by State Police assigned to Conley’s office, Wark said.


The episode began when the building manager at a rooming house on Hawthorne Street said he called Chelsea police after the 56-year-old Graffeo locked himself inside his room on the second floor and began throwing things at about 7 p.m.

“I was knocking on, banging on his door, calling his name, ‘Dominic! Dominic! What’s going on? I want to talk to you,’ ” said the manager, Michael Marangiello.

He said Graffeo has a history of changing the locks on his door and destroying property in his room, including one occasion in which he was led out of the rooming house by police at gunpoint.

“He just barricaded himself in there and every month or so he starts smashing or breaking everything,” Marangiello said.

When officers arrived, Graffeo refused to let them in and he could be heard moving more furniture in front of the door, according to a police report obtained by the Globe.

A crisis negotiator was also sent to the residence, but Graffeo refused to cooperate, Wark said.

Officers called firefighters at about 7:20 p.m. and requested a fire truck so police could climb the ladders and look in on Graffeo through his windows, said Chelsea Deputy Fire Chief John Quatieri.


Inside, Graffeo could be seen shirtless and bleeding profusely from unknown injuries to his arms and legs, Wark said.

Firefighters said they used an ax and hydraulic spreader to force his door open.

When officers entered the room, Graffeo allegedly began throwing objects at them, including a beer bottle that struck Officer Paul Marchese in the chest as he was perched on the ladder outside, the police report said.

The officers ordered Graffeo to put his hands up and stop throwing things.

When he allegedly did not comply, Officer David Delaney deployed a taser, which Graffeo was able to block, according to the report.

As Graffeo allegedly continued to throw objects at police, Officer Anthony Ortiz fired his taser, this time striking him in the torso, the report stated.

At that point, officers tried to handcuff Graffeo, who was 6 feet tall and weighed 225 pounds, the report said. Police said he was kicking his legs and hiding his right arm under his body as four officers tried to restrain him.

Delaney used his taser again on Graffeo in the “drive stun” mode, but it did not affect him, the report said.

Another officer gave Delaney his taser, which he used again on Graffeo in the drive-stun mode, according to the report. Officers then used a baton to pry Graffeo’s arm free from under his body, removed a coat hanger from his hand, and handcuffed both hands, the police report said.


Drive-stun mode is where police deploy the taser but do not fire its projectile.

Officers then began moving debris to try to get Graffeo out of the room, the report said, and Officer Luis Tarraza noticed he was turning purple and appeared to stop breathing.

Police performed chest compressions before emergency medical technicians took over. The technicians said Graffeo was breathing, conscious, and possibly overdosing, the report said.

Graffeo was given Narcan, which is used to reverse opiate overdoses, and rushed to Whidden Memorial, where he was pronounced dead, Wark said.

Graffeo’s sister declined to comment on Friday night.

Six officers were taken to area hospitals, three for stress and three for injuries that were not considered life-threatening, the report said.

Reached Friday night, Officers Ortiz and Delaney said they could not comment on the episode, and Tarraza and Marchese could not be reached.

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes had no comment except to say that the district attorney’s office was investigating.

Graffeo has a criminal record for assaulting officers. He pleaded guilty to charges of assault and battery on a police officer in 2001 and 2007, court records show.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at