The Massachusetts State Police trooper who fired his rifle during a police confrontation in which a Cape Verdean ATV driver was injured in Boston on Saturday has a long history of posting racist and profane comments on a website called MassCops, including some in support of police officers who shoot suspects.
“Note to [expletive] scumbags!” wrote Trooper Matthew Sheehan, using the screen name “Big Irish,” in a July 2012 posting about an incident in Worcester in which a state trooper shot and killed a man who allegedly drove at him. “You try and run us over and you will die!!!! Good shoot ALL DAY LONG!!!!!!!”
Sheehan sprinkled his posts as Big Irish with biographical information that the Globe verified as Sheehan’s, including his birthday, hometown, and work history. He mentioned taking a Globe reporter on a ride-along and was photographed for the story. Two people with knowledge of the situation also identified Sheehan as Big Irish.
An official with knowledge, who spoke on the condition he not be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak, said State Police found the postings on Sheehan’s work computer.
State Police spokesman David Procopio said in a statement that the department has opened an “immediate investigation” into the posts.
The department also took Sheehan’s department-issued equipment, Procopio said, including his use-of-force equipment such as guns, his cruiser, and any job-issued electronics.
Sheehan has been on paid leave in accordance with department policy since Saturday. After Globe reporters alerted State Police to the Big Irish postings, Procopio said the department scheduled a duty status hearing for Friday, which will determine whether he should be placed on a different status during the investigation, such as restricted duty, suspension with pay, or suspension without pay.
“The tone and nature of these posts are repugnant and clearly do not reflect the values, ideals and opinions of the Massachusetts State Police,” Procopio said. “When the investigation is completed, the department will take further action as warranted by the results.”
Attorney Richard Rafferty, who is representing Sheehan on behalf of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation. Sheehan did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Governor Charlie Baker, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon after the Globe published its story online, said the posts “have no place in law enforcement, no place in public discussion, no place in our community, period.”
“If those posts were issued by someone who’s a member of the State Police, they are clearly a violation of the code of conduct and he or she should be fired.”
In one 2012 posting, Sheehan said there was “no reason” why a police officer should ask a person to drop their weapon more than once before shooting. In others, he rants about criminals and, often, people of color, using disparaging language, calling them “deadbeats,” “baby’s momma’s,” “gang banging,” “EBT receiving,” “non GED getting,” and “crack smoking.” In another from 2012, in which he imagined a vigil after a police shooting, he referred to attendees as “None of Your Bidzness Rapper’s Delight Association.”
Sheehan fired his rifle Saturday while state troopers and Boston police tried to stop a large group of between 25 and 35 people riding dirt bikes and ATVs in and out of traffic and in the wrong direction near the Exit 18 ramp of I-93 South. ATV driver Aderito Monteiro, 28, was wounded in the foot.
A State Police report states Monteiro was spinning and doing “doughnuts” in the road and allegedly drove at a trooper and a Boston police K9 operator. When the trooper and officer ordered him to stop and lie down on the ground, Monteiro complied, according to the report. He then began complaining that his foot was injured. The police report, which was not written by Sheehan, does not directly address the shooting or say when it happened.
State Police have said they are not sure if Monteiro was actually hit by the bullet or injured in another way, but Monteiro’s attorney said Wednesday that his client believes he was shot.
The Suffolk district attorney’s office is conducting an investigation into the shooting and has interviewed Sheehan. Investigators are collecting videos from cameras that were mounted to several of the bikes and other vehicles involved in the incident.
“We believe there is much more out there and we ask anyone who has additional video to share it with our office,” said Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley.
Wark said the online comments were disturbing.
“The sentiments expressed in these posts have absolutely no place in law enforcement,” he said.
Monteiro was arraigned on charges of failure to stop for police, disorderly conduct, negligent motor vehicle operation, and having an uninsured ATV, as well as the civil infractions of having an unregistered ATV and failing to stay in marked travel lanes. He pleaded not guilty in Boston Municipal Court on Monday. Law enforcement officials said that if troopers felt they were in danger, they could have charged Monteiro with assault with a dangerous weapon.
Monteiro’s attorney, Manuel Pires, said Wednesday that his client never drove at a trooper but instead was trying to drive away — noting that Monteiro immediately complied with trooper commands, stopping and lying down on the ground when ordered.
“He was in panic mode trying to get out of the scene, as was everyone else,” Pires said.
Pires said there was no way Monteiro had been injured by anything other than a trooper’s bullet.
“Impossible. He never fell off his ATV or crashed,” Pires said. “There’s an insinuation he may have hurt himself, that it may not have been bullet fragments. But he is convinced it was. He felt it. He heard it.”
Sheehan, 49, has been a trooper since 2005, and is currently assigned to the State Police — Tunnels Barracks. In 2008, he received the Massachusetts State Police Medal of Merit for helping a Gloucester police officer subdue an armed and violent man wanted for attempted murder and kidnapping, according to media reports at the time.
Sheehan also has been the subject of five internal affairs complaints between 2011 and 2016, according to public records, including one for profanity and another for using excessive force. The excessive force complaint was found not to have merit. It was unclear Wednesday what the outcome of the profanity complaint was. Three other complaints, the nature of which were unclear, against Sheehan were listed as “filed,” which means no disciplinary action was taken.
Sheehan earned $233,351 including overtime and other pay in 2016, according to public records.
He began posting on MassCops, a chat forum focused on law enforcement, in 2012.
Many of his posts cover topics including his service in the State Police Color Guard, his experiences being injured while working details, his past as a Department of Correction employee, and news articles posted by other users. His most recent post was written in December 2017.
Some of his posts reflect a frustration that police are unfairly criticized for doing their jobs. But some also reveal a deep anger, often expressed in racial terms.
“I guess this [expletive] won’t be heading to the pols in November to vote and keep his EBT card.!!!” he wrote in an August 2012 post, commenting on an article about the death of Burrell Ramsey-White, who was shot by Boston police after allegedly pointing a loaded gun at an officer.
“I wonder when all of his Pastors/Reverends/Supporters from the 7th Church of the Tabernacle Coallation Crack Free Non Child Support Turn Your Life Around Free EBT Card Baby’s Momma’s None of Your Bidzness Rapper’s Delight Association will come out to the vigil???? Stay safe !!” Sheehan wrote.
In other postings in October 2012, he attacked a woman who identified herself as the sister of a man who caused a fatal car accident during a police chase in Brockton, calling her a crack-smoking baby momma. Much of the posting was too obscene to publish.
“We’re all glad you got to post a reply before you headed down to the corner for the night to turn tricks!!!!” Sheehan wrote. “Make sure you wear protection you dirty slut!!! Of course your brother is educated. He was the biggest one in the 5th grade class at age 25!!!!”
In a 2016 post, he slammed residents of two predominantly minority communities in Boston.
“[Expletive] the people of Mission Hill and Roxbury!! They don’t give a rats ass about us!!”
Some of his posts suggest he condones violence.
“I hope your allergic to bees and I’ll leave a nice full bag of them so I can watch you suffer in front of me!!!” he wrote in a 2013 post about a person who stole an MBTA worker’s bag.
In another 2013 post, about members of an unruly crowd who threw beer cans and bottles at police, he wrote that anyone who threw a bottle at him would need two things: “a real good dentist” and “a physical therapist AFTER you start walking again.”
The State Police Code of Ethics states that troopers are to “respect the diversity of, and be sensitive to, all people.” They are also required to conduct themselves in a way that reflects “most favorably upon themselves and the Massachusetts State Police.”
City officials and activists said they were horrified at the content of Sheehan’s posts and wondered how he could perform his duties as a state trooper impartially.
“It’s frightening to say that this person is in a role that is charged to protect and serve,” said Darnell L. Williams, chief executive of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts. “I’m not certain he has the capacity to separate what he really feels and thinks from carrying out his duties.”
Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell said Sheehan’s posts should spark “a full review of all of his interactions with the community.” She said she planned to discuss the importance of tools like body cameras and implicit bias training with other city officials.
“In instances where someone has demonstrated on several occasions that they are racist and sexist, they should be immediately fired,” Campbell said.Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Andrea Estes can be reached at email@example.com.