ATTLEBORO - Two rookie Attleboro police officers dodged bullets Monday morning, then shot and provided first aid to the man who fired at them, according to police.
Police Chief Kyle P. Heagney praised both officers for how they handled the situation and said he was “very proud” of their actions.
Neither officer was hit, but bullets struck and damaged their police cruisers.
“Their instincts and training took over,” Heagney said. “God forbid that they were still sitting in those cruisers.”
Eric Lindsey, 41, of Coventry, R.I., who allegedly attacked the officers, is recovering at Rhode Island Hospital from wounds. He faces a host of charges, but no arraignment date has been set yet, Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III’s office said in a statement.
Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux applauded the two officers for providing life-saving first aid to Lindsey after they wounded him.
“After taking fire from this suspect … they saved his life,’’ Mayor Paul Heroux said in a telephone interview. “They performed their duties exactly how you would want them. They remained cool, calm professional. They couldn’t have handled it better.”
Heroux said the confrontation between the man later identified as Lindsey and police was not motivated by a political agenda but appeared to be an isolated incident. He said Lindsey had no known prior interaction with Attleboro police, and investigators were trying to determine what caused him to allegedly shoot at the police.
After the exchange of gunfire Lindsey fell to the ground, and the two officers advanced on the prone man, and noticed that he was bleeding heavily from his extremities, Heagney said. At least one of the officers ran back to the cruiser, hauled a first aid kit out of the vehicle and rushed back to Lindsey’s side where they applied a tourniquet, he said.
“They attached the tourniquet to try and control the bleeding – and save his life,’’ the chief said. “I consider these two officers absolute heroes.”
Heagney told reporters Lindsey had been shot multiple times and was undergoing surgery on Monday.
The episode began just before 6:45 a.m. Monday, when police received a 911 call about an armed man sitting in a church on Newport Avenue.
Bob Truitt, the business administrator for South Attleboro Assembly of God, said the church’s lead pastor, Randal Ackland, had opened the front door of the sanctuary — which was locked — and noticed a man with a gun sitting in the pews.
Truitt said the man appeared to be sweaty and disheveled, and he was shaking. Ackland tried to counsel the man, but his efforts were unsuccessful.
“The individual basically refused any help, and exited the building,” said Truitt.
Truitt said the pastor immediately contacted the police.
Truitt said the man at first appeared to walk in the direction of the train station, but then apparently changed course and started walking the other way up Newport Avenue.
Truitt said that to his knowledge, Lindsey was not a member of the church and had never attended church there before, and Ackland did not know him, either.
“Apparently a rear door was ajar...and he made his way in,” said Truitt.
Heagney said police responded to the church and found that Lindsey had fled the scene on foot. Police then searched the area and located him on Newport Avenue near the intersection of Barrows Street.
The suspect refused to obey verbal commands and then suddenly, without warning, started firing at the police cruisers and the officers, the chief said.
One officer dove out of a cruiser before he was able to shift the gears and put the vehicle into park. The cruiser, without a driver behind the wheel, traveled up the road until it came to a stop a short distance away.
“It happened so quickly, so fast, he wasn’t able to put the cruiser into park,” Heagney said.
Heagney said neither officer was hit, but bullets did strike the windows of the two cruisers, as well the headrests. On Monday morning two bullet holes could clearly be seen in the windshield of one of the cruisers.
“Out of sheer bravery and heroism, the officers jumped out of their cruisers,” he said. “Had the officers, in my opinion, not took evasive action so instinctively and quickly, they probably would have succumbed ...and definitely not [be] with us today.”
Heagney said he didn’t know why the man was in Attleboro, or if he had any connection to the church. As of Monday morning, it was also unclear whether the man had a vehicle in the area.
“We’re not sure why he was in Attleboro. We’re not sure why he was in that church,” he said.
Prosecutors said Lindsey was facing two counts of assault with intent to murder while armed with a gun, four counts of attempted assault and battery with a firearm, four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, three counts of possessing a large-capacity feeding device, and one count each of breaking and entering, unlawful possession of a large-capacity firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, carrying an illegal firearm, and carrying a loaded illegal firearm.
“By the grace of God, the officers were not seriously injured or killed. This case highlights the dangers officers face on a daily basis while responding to calls. I commend them for their professionalism in their response to a most dangerous and potentially fatal situation,” Quinn, the district attorney, said in a statement.
On Monday morning, police blocked off a section of Newport Avenue and traffic was detoured as investigators worked the crime scene.
“We’re still conducting a very active investigation,” Heagney told reporters Monday morning. “It’s complex; it’s a large scene. There’s a lot to be discovered.”
Heagney said the two officers have since been released from the hospital and are home resting with their families.
“When you are suddenly shot at, without notice, without provocation, it’s very traumatic,” he said. “They’re doing the best they can in dealing with this.”