Metro

How Hingham police say a fatal standoff unfolded

HINGHAM — Incident reports released by local and regional law enforcement agencies this week revealed new details about the 10-hour standoff that brought dozens of police officers and heavy equipment to a quiet neighborhood here late at night on July 8, and ended with the suicide of a 26-year-old man at his family’s home.

According to reports by Hingham police and the Metro Law Enforcement Council — a regional consortium of 48 local police agencies that sent added manpower and specialized equipment to the Hingham call — the episode began when the young man, Austin Reeves, threatened to kill himself and his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

In the days before the standoff, he had texted a photograph of a black handgun to the new boyfriend, and on the night of the standoff, his girlfriend told police he made additional threats to harm himself and the boyfriend, according the reports.

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Concerned about his state of mind, his former girlfriend called police and asked them to check on him.

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The robust police response that followed included a regional SWAT team with armored vehicles, a K9 unit, and multiple trained negotiators who spent hours trying unsuccessfully to establish a dialogue with the distraught young man.

Police ultimately sent robots and remote-controlled cameras into the house on Edgar Walker Court to find him; they eventually discovered him dead in a bedroom. Reeves’s father, Russell Reeves — whose contentious history with Hingham town government spans years of legal conflict — has publicly criticized the police response to his home as heavy-handed.

He told The Boston Globe police ignored his pleas to leave his son in peace and said he believed the aggressive show of force caused his son to feel cornered and kill himself.

Hingham police previously declined a Globe request for an in-depth interview or detailed records of the incident, citing an ongoing investigation by the office of the Plymouth district attorney — routine in such cases — to confirm the cause of death was suicide. On Thursday, Hingham police Chief Glenn Olsson defended his department’s response, calling it “100 percent appropriate” under the circumstances but said the focus of concern should be the loss of Austin Reeves’s life.

The Reeves family
Austin Reeves.
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“My focus is that a 26-year-old’s life was lost here, and I don’t want to lose that fact,” Olsson said. “I feel horrible for the family, and I don’t want this to be an us-versus-them situation. I’m confident in the way we handled the situation — the focus should be on helping the family grieve.”

The newly released reports describe progressive efforts by police to determine whether Austin Reeves had a weapon; to contact him as he remained upstairs in his parents’ home; and to determine his location in the house. According to the Hingham police incident report, officers speaking to his parents “continued to emphasize that the goal in mind was to have Austin removed from the home safely and transported to the hospital for an evaluation.”

“It was our firm stance based on our training, experience, and the information at hand that had officers ‘rushed in’ we could have potentially forced a suicide by our presence,” Hingham police wrote in their report. Instead, local officers called for backup from the regional team and its trained negotiators. The police records were first reported this week in the Quincy Patriot Ledger.

The Hingham police chief said Thursday that the decision to call for a regional response stemmed partly from the small number of local officers available, and the need to be prepared for a range of possible outcomes and developments — and other unrelated law enforcement needs elsewhere in the town.

Early in the standoff, while they were speaking with his parents outside the house, police reported that Reeves briefly exited the home through the front door, only to turn and flee back inside when he saw police in the yard. A few minutes later, according to the Metro Law Enforcement Council incident report, a Hingham police officer heard a sound inside the house. “The officer did not believe it was consistent with a gunshot, but all three officers on scene did hear it,” the report noted.

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All efforts to communicate with Reeves were unsuccessful. After the arrival of the Massachusetts State Police Bomb Squad, around 2:30 a.m., squad members sent an advanced technology robot, known as a “throwbot,” into the home to determine Reeves’s location, but the team lost contact with the robot. A later search with a remote-controlled camera detected a motionless figure on the floor in an upstairs bedroom just before 7 a.m.; police then sent a trained “entry team” of officers into the house to confirm that Reeves was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

On Thursday, a little more than two weeks after his death, Reeves’s former girlfriend said she, too, is focused on the loss and not the circumstances.

“Austin was a very deep person, so smart and hardworking, and he had so many plans and ideas for the future,” Tanya Buzzi-Ames said. “He could have done anything — I told him that all the time. But I don’t think he ever saw his own light, or held himself in the same regard that everybody else did.”

A window was shrouded in plastic after a SWAT team broke it during a 10-hour standoff with Austin Reeves.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
A window was shrouded in plastic after a SWAT team broke it during a 10-hour standoff with Austin Reeves.

Jenna Russell can be reached at jenna.russell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @JRussGlobe.