A Lynn police officer was justified when he fatally shot an unarmed man with a “decades-long history of violence” who robbed a gas station while claiming to have a gun and then refused orders to put his hands up as he rushed toward the officer, prosecutors said.
Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett cleared Lynn police Officer John Bernard in the November 2016 shooting of robbery suspect Michael McInnis, 41, in a report released Thursday.
“Based on this investigation, I find that Officer Bernard, having been informed that Mr. McInnis was armed, believed his life was in danger as Mr. McInnis walked toward him quickly while refusing to show his hands,” Blodgett said in a statement. “For this reason, Officer Bernard bears no criminal responsibility for shooting Mr. McInnis.”
It was the second fatal police-involved shooting that Bernard had been a part of. Prosecutors have said previously that Iraq war veteran Denis Reynoso pulled a gun from Bernard’s holster during a 2013 incident and put it against Bernard’s head before another officer shot and killed Reynoso.
McInnis’s family couldn’t be reached for comment.
Blodgett’s office said in Thursday’s report that McInnis entered a Gulf station at 525 Lynnway shortly before 3:45 a.m. on Nov. 29, 2016, grabbed a clerk by the back of his shirt, and dragged him toward the counter.
McInnis shoved the clerk’s face into the cash register and demanded money, so the clerk gave him three $50 bills, the report said.
McInnis continued assaulting the clerk and shouted, “Give me the money or I’m going to shoot you,” prosecutors said.
The clerk fought back, and the two struggled before the employee pushed McInnis out of the store. The worker then called police and reported that McInnis said he had a gun, according to prosecutors.
Bernard and two other officers caught up with McInnis on the Lynnway a short time later. McGinnis was on foot and crossed the street in front of the cruisers.
“He had his hands in his jacket pockets and his head facing straight ahead and down. He briefly stopped and looked at the officers and continued to walk north on the sidewalk,” the report said. “The three uniformed officers exited their cruisers and drew their firearms. They shouted at McInnis to show them his hands. They yelled at him to stop.”
McInnis didn’t comply and walked faster towards Bernard, the report said. The officers kept yelling at him to stop and put his hands up, but he refused, officials said.
McInnis was about 7 to 10 feet from Bernard when the officer, “believing that McInnis may have a gun and fearing for his life and the life of the other officers, fired his firearm two times hitting McInnis twice in the chest,” the report said, adding that police “immediately placed handcuffs on McInnis and administered first aid.”
He was pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a toxicology report showed alcohol, cocaine, and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death, according to Blodgett’s office.
Authorities said the investigation included a review of witness interviews, crime scene evidence, surveillance footage, radio transmissions, autopsy reports, and information from State Police Crime Scene Services, Crime Lab, and Firearm Identification Sections.
“It should be noted that McInnis had a decades-long history of violence,” the report said. “His extensive history also includes an arrest in Malden in the summer of 2015. During that arrest he threatened a police officer stating that he was going to take the officer’s gun and shoot him and other officers.”
During the earlier incident in 2013, police responded to Reynoso’s home after neighbors said he was acting erratically.
“Officer Bernard, a Marine combat veteran, attempted to talk to Reynoso ‘vet to vet,’ ’’ said a 2014 report from Blodgett’s office.
Reynoso leapt onto Bernard, the 2014 report said, and grabbed Bernard’s weapon from its holster, putting it against the officer’s head.
Bernard grabbed the barrel of the gun and pushed it away from his head, and Reynoso pulled the trigger, laughing as he did so, according to prosecutors.
Officer Paul Scali started grappling with Reynoso, who pulled the trigger a second time, sending another bullet over the heads of the two officers, officials said.
A third officer, Joshua Hilton, warned Reynoso five times that he was going to shoot before he pulled the trigger, the report said. Reynoso collapsed after being struck, but laughed and tried to bite a firefighter who responded to the emergency scene, according to prosecutors. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
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