New Hampshire authorities cleared four Massachusetts state troopers in the fatal shooting of a sexual assault suspect they had pursued over the state line, saying he was posing a danger to the troopers and the public — and had told family members he would not be taken alive.
A note found in Michael R. Brown’s stolen pickup truck, written by his mother, supported the government’s claim that he planned to commit suicide by cop, rather than surrender, said New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin.
“Mike, just want you to know I’ve always loved you, know [sic] matter what,” the note said. “Your [sic] my son. If I don’t see you again I’ll always hold you close to my heart. Take care. Love Mom. XOXO.”
Strelzin and his boss, Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald, said at a news conference that the four troopers involved in the chase — Michael Caranfa, Robert Holland, George Katsarakes, and Daniel Purtell — were justified in their use of deadly force and will not face criminal charges.
Strelzin said that Brown, 40, fired at the troopers at least six times during the pursuit, and that the evidence indicates that he fired up to 15 shots. Brown had been wanted on charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in his home state of Maine.
“Mr. Brown had many chances to end the pursuit peacefully,” Strelzin said, adding that Brown instead chose to “escalate an already dangerous situation.”
The authorities played video and audio footage of the incident captured by a Massachusetts State Police helicopter, including an image of the troopers closing in on the pickup truck with guns drawn. The audio included the troopers’ radio calls in which they repeatedly reported during the pursuit that Brown was firing at them.
MacDonald said Brown, who initially refused to stop for Malden police shortly after 11 p.m. on June 15, at one point drove the wrong way on Interstate 495 and also ignored verbal commands in Newton, N.H., to exit the truck.
Instead, MacDonald said, Brown “accelerated toward several troopers” with his arm extended holding a silver handgun.
“Mr. Brown’s dangerous and potentially deadly actions prompted the troopers to fire.,” he said.
Caranfa and Katsarakes told investigators that they saw Brown’s right hand extended out towards them holding what appeared to be a shiny pistol. Investigators later recovered a stolen handgun with a silver finish in the truck.
The evidence indicates that Brown died from a gunshot wound to his neck, and that the bullet came from either Caranfa’s or Katsarakes’s department-issued rifle, Strelzin said.
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Richard McKeon also spoke during the briefing and told reporters that his agency had been confident that the four troopers would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
McKeon said the evidence indicated that “our troopers had no choice but to [use] lethal force to end the deadly threat posed by this armed and reckless suspect.”