A homeless man with a “violent criminal past” allegedly stabbed two Boston park rangers who approached him on Boston Common Tuesday, lunging at them in an unprovoked and wild attack that left one ranger in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital, police officials said.
Boston police chased Bodio Hutchinson, 34, into the Public Garden, where they arrested him and fished a knife out of a nearby pond, officials said. Before officers tackled him to the pavement, witnesses said, Hutchinson told the officers to shoot him.
“Our prayers are with both of the rangers,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans at a press conference Tuesday night. “We have good witnesses and good video, and we’re confident in the suspect we have that’s responsible for this.”
Authorities did not name the two men wounded but said the ranger who was critically hurt and taken to Mass. General is a 46-year-old sergeant who has been on the job for 20 years. He was stabbed in the abdomen and was in surgery on Tuesday night. The other ranger, authorities said, is 23 and had just joined the force. He suffered several wounds and was taken to Tufts Medical Center.
Hutchinson was sitting on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument statue in the Common when the rangers, who were not armed, approached him, said Evans.
Hutchinson “has a very violent, assaultive past history,” Evans said. “The officers confronted him up by the monument and without provocation he lunged at both officers,”
Witnesses who rushed to the Common after hearing a commotion described a horrifying scene: two wounded rangers, one lying on a bench with his hands over his stomach to stanch the bleeding, the other walking nearby and holding his arm.
“We run up here, we see cops, just like, bleeding,” said Jackson Marchant, who was walking nearby when the stabbing occurred. “A lot of people were helping the cops. But he was stabbed right in the central stomach, and it was bloody, it was bleeding, his whole torso was covered in red. He was holding himself, praying.”
The wounded ranger continued praying as he was loaded into an emergency vehicle, Marchant said.
Officials said that as Hutchinson allegedly fled, some bystanders followed him, and videotaped him on their cellphones.
Witnesses described a brief chase, with officers running after Hutchinson out of the Common and into the Public Garden, telling him to stop. Hutchinson was not moving very fast, witnesses said.
“He stopped, and he told them to shoot him,” said Nicholas Rusk, 19. “They just tackled him to the ground.”
One witness snapped a series of pictures of the arrest: In one, a heavyset man dressed in a Red Sox jacket and a pompom hat with “Boston” written on it is lying prone on the ground under two officers, his mouth slightly open. In another, the man stands in bright red shorts over black pants, surrounded by officers whom he appears to be addressing. Police declined to confirm that the pictures showed Hutchinson.
Witnesses pointed police to the pond in the Public Garden, and officers waded in. Evans said they retrieved a knife.
“I can’t say enough about the public,” said Evans. “Great work on the part of the public and on the part of the officers.”
According to police, Hutchinson has an open warrant for his arrest on a charge of assault and battery on a police officer. He was arrested in February of last year and charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, and assault and battery, according to officials.
Evans said it was not clear whether the rangers who approached Hutchinson knew of the outstanding warrant.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said that at any given time, two to four officers are patroling Boston Common and the Public Garden.
“Certainly we’ve, on the Boston Common, had issues in the past with homelessness, but our officers work very hard in there,” said Walsh. “Generally they work without incident and are able to defuse any situation. In this incident clearly they were not able to defuse it when the gentleman attacked them.”
Walsh said the parks commissioner will talk with rangers and police to see if they need more equipment or more manpower to keep the parks safe.
On Tuesday evening, the monument was roped off with crime scene tape. The heavy police presence had drawn onlookers, many of whom expressed shock that rangers could be so brazenly attacked. Helicopters whirred overhead, and investigators canvassed the scene by flashlight, marking several spots as evidence.
Evans said Hutchinson will probably face at least two counts of attempted murder, in addition to the outstanding charges of assaulting a police officer, and drug charges.
“He’s not a newcomer to the criminal justice system,” said Evans.