An officer at the Suffolk County House of Correction at South Bay was struck with a metal pipe during a suspected robbery attempt near the Boston facility as he was heading to work Thursday morning, authorities said.
In a statement, Suffolk Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins said the officer, who wasn’t named, had not yet changed into his uniform at the time of the assault.
“While in his car on Atkinson Street, a person reached through the open window and struck the officer. . . . Once outside of the vehicle, it is reported that he was surrounded by multiple people who began to strike and attack him,” the statement said.
Boston police Sergeant Detective John Boyle, a department spokesman, said officers responded to the area of 112 Southampton St. near Atkinson shortly before 8 a.m. to investigate the assault call.
One witness reported seeing the assault just before 7:30 a.m., telling police that a suspect struck the 28-year-old Suffolk officer in the face with an object described as some type of metal pipe, Boyle said.
Boyle said the wounded officer had already been taken to Boston Medical Center, and the suspects had already fled, by the time police arrived.
The victim told police at BMC that one assailant had “yelled out to him” as he drove down Atkinson Street, so he rolled down his window, Boyle said. According to authorities, a man approached him and struck him in the face “with an open fist.”
The victim got out of the car and a fight ensued, according to police. During the brawl, one suspect took the officer’s watch, glasses, and phone and tried unsuccessfully to take his wallet, authorities said. According to police, the victim was struck with a metal pipe multiple times during the conflict.
All told, about five people had joined in the attack, Boyle said, with one suspect in custody Thursday afternoon.
Torre Jenkins, 45, of Boston, is expected to be arraigned Friday on charges of breaking and entering of a motor vehicle and attempted larceny of a motor vehicle, authorities said.
Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement she has spoken with the sheriff and Boston police commissioner “to express my commitment to holding the individuals who engaged in the attack accountable for their actions.” The investigation, according to Rollins, “remains highly active.”
Jenkins had four active warrants related to multiple drug-related charges and an assault charge, among others, according to authorities.
Tompkin’s office said investigators haven’t confirmed why the group attacked the officer, but “the motive is suspected to be attempted robbery. The officer is alert and currently being seen by medical professionals.”
In a Thursday statement, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said, “The safety and well-being of the people in this city is my highest priority. I am confident that Boston Police will conduct a comprehensive investigation to get to the bottom of this incident. I wish the person involved a quick recovery.”
Thursday’s attack occurred not far from the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, an area that is known as “Methadone Mile” because of its association with recovery services.
Walsh’s office on Thursday acknowledged the neighborhood is a “highly transited area” because of the concentration of recovery and shelter services.
The office said Walsh has “significantly increased public safety presence in the area, increasing directed patrols, extending patrol hours, and training officers in de-escalation techniques for individuals struggling with mental health or substance-use disorder.”
Boston police, according to the mayor’s office, will “be further increasing directed patrols in the area.”
Walsh recently appointed a special adviser who is focusing on managing the services provided in the neighborhood. A police deputy superintendent has also been assigned to a recently created role “to coordinate response in that area,” according to Walsh’s office.
Jonathan Corey, president of Correctional Officers Local 419, the wounded officer’s union, released a statement on the attack. “one of our members was viciously attacked by multiple individuals on his way into work.” The officer was released from BMC later Thursday, according to Corey.
“Unfortunately this is not the first incident involving one of our members outside of our facility. Our local is outraged that the mecca of crime within the city of Boston has been brought to our front door with disregard for anyone’s safety,” Corey said.
He said the area has become a “haven for crime, clearly without recourse, and is based off neglect from this city. If a trained deputy sheriff cannot walk to work safely, I am particularly concerned for the residents and civilians of the area.’’
Later Thursday, Tompkin’s office confirmed that a second group of Suffolk officers had been involved in a skirmish with another suspect in a separate incident.
“An emotionally disturbed individual approached three officers and attempted to strike one of the officers,” Tompkin’s office said in a follow-up statement.
“Officers subdued the individual and held him for the Boston Police Department and Boston EMS, who took him to the hospital to be evaluated.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.