Boston and State Police officers acted in self-defense when they killed a felon who opened fire on police on a busy Roxbury street last year, and will not face charges, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced Tuesday.
Police shot and killed Angelo West, 40, on March 27, 2015, after West stepped from his car during a traffic stop on Humboldt Avenue and shot Boston police gang unit officer John Moynihan point blank in the face. West fled while continuing to fire at police before he was fatally shot.
“The facts and evidence gathered during this exhaustive investigation establish beyond any doubt that two Boston police officers and one state trooper discharged their firearms in a lawful exercise of self-defense, and defense of others,” Conley said during a press conference where he released the entire investigation file. Some video had been released last year.
Conley said that West, who had a long criminal record and had served time in prison for firing a gun during a struggle with police in the Theatre District in 2001, was a “deadly threat” who fired at least four shots at police -- including the one that nearly killed Moynihan.
“This is our worst nightmare,” said Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans. “No one wants to fire their gun. Nobody wants to take a life.”
Before announcing the decision not to charge Boston police officers Brian Ball and Brian Johnson, and state Trooper William Cameron, officials met with West’s brother. West’s family could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Moynihan has recovered physically, Evans said, but has not yet returned to work.
“I can’t fathom what he’s gone through both physically and emotionally, and to put the gun back on and come back is going to be his decision,” he said. “It’s a miracle that he’s back on his feet.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said after an event Tuesday that he was glad that Conley had released his findings.
“Certainly Officer Moynihan is a hero in the city of Boston,” Walsh said. “It was a terrible situation out there. And to know that, after an investigation was done, that the officers acted the way they were supposed to is a good thing.”
Gang unit officers were investigating reports of shots fired on Brookledge Street when they stopped the car West was driving, Conley said. Police were not after West — they were after his companion, an alleged gang member they believed may have been armed. They pulled the car over when West ran a stop sign.
Video of the stop, shot from a nearby store, showed Moynihan walk to the driver’s side door. After a brief conversation through the window, the door opens. The officers appear to have their guns holstered.
Suddenly, as West gets out, his arm swings up and the loud crack of a gunshot can be heard. West ducks, then runs, firing at the other officers who are crouched and shooting.
Video taken from the other side of the street shows passers-by running, and then West as he tumbles to the ground, rolls, and dies. Panicked voices can be heard over the dispatch radio calling, “Shots fired shots fired! Humboldt and Ruthven! We need help!”
In an interview included in the investigative files released Tuesday, Moynihan said that as he walked to the driver’s side door, he was concerned about the safety of the officer at the passenger side — not his own — because that’s where he thought the gun was. And West, he said, appeared cooperative.
“He tricked me,” Moynihan said. When West got out of the car, Moynihan said, West planted his foot and threw what Moynihan thought was a punch.
“I thought I just had a fight on my hands,” Moynihan said. “The round went off and I just, I remember just going up off my feet and hitting the ground.”
He tried to get up and help his partners, he said, but he was too weak.
In the days leading up to the fatal encounter, Conley said, West had told friends that he would never go back to jail.
“You said that if ever confronted by these pigs you was gonna hold court in the streets, cuz you were never going back!” one friend wrote in a social media post about West, according to investigation files.
During West’s autopsy, according to the files, the office of the chief medical examiner discovered 14 bags of crack cocaine stuffed into his underwear. Three bullets from police officers were found in his body, along with two bullets from earlier, unrelated shootings, Conley said.
Some community leaders who viewed the video and investigation files said the decision not to charge the officers was the right one. They praised the transparency of the investigation.
“A lot of us were so thankful for the video of this incident,” said Emmett Folgert, executive director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, who said he is glad police are planning a pilot program to test body cameras. “We’re going to see what they see, and hear what they hear. Hopefully, that’ll help us understand each other.”
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com.