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Philadelphia murder suspect arrested in Cambridge after Harvard Square search

Sohan Panjrolia, apprehended by Cambridge police Tuesday afternoon, was being sought by Philadelphia police.
Sohan Panjrolia, apprehended by Cambridge police Tuesday afternoon, was being sought by Philadelphia police.Mark Garfinkel/NBC10 Boston/Mark Garfinkel

CAMBRIDGE — A Philadelphia man wanted for allegedly murdering his father over the weekend was arrested in a shopping mall in bustling Harvard Square on Tuesday afternoon, following a tense search by heavily armed police officers.

Sohan Panjrolia, 31, a graduate of Harvard University Extension School, was taken into custody without incident near the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop inside The Garage mall building on John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge police said.

He is due to be arraigned Wednesday in Cambridge District Court on a charge of being a fugitive from justice, Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard said at a news conference.


People inside Ben & Jerry's in Harvard Square after Sohan Panjrolia was taken into custody.
People inside Ben & Jerry's in Harvard Square after Sohan Panjrolia was taken into custody. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The US Marshal’s Service notified police late Monday night and again early Tuesday that Panjrolia might be in the area, Bard said. A Harvard University police officer on Tuesday located a rented Toyota Camry that Panjrolia was believed to be driving in a Harvard Square garage. “Within minutes” the suspect, who was unarmed, was taken into custody at the mall up the street, police said.

“It appeared he wasn’t expecting to be engaged by police,” Bard said.

Noting that police had been advised Panjrolia might be armed with an assault rifle, Bard said, “We were lucky here that we caught the suspect unprepared.”

No weapons were found on him during his arrest, according to police.

Bard said police were seeking but had not yet executed a search warrant for the car Panjrolia had been driving. He said authorities are not sure what brought him to Cambridge after he fled Philadelphia.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief, I touched on it earlier. [In] a densely populated area, well-known area, high-power assault rifle, that we suspected the suspect had, it could have turned out much different than it did,” Bard said.

Harvard had issued an alert advising people to stay in place and avoid the area of JFK and Eliot streets.


A Harvard spokesman said Panjrolia had received a bachelor of liberal arts degree in 2013 from the Extension School, a division of the Ivy League university that serves people seeking part-time, online courses and nonresidential programs to advance their careers or pursue an academic interest.

Panjrolia had been arrested by Cambridge police for a domestic incident in 2010, according to Cambridge police.

Harvard University Police said in a statement that Panjrolia was “potentially observed in the area of JFK and Eliot Street” at 11:45 a.m., which sparked the search by multiple police agencies. Panjrolia was spotted in The Garage at about 12:35 p.m. and was taken into custody by multiple officers from different agencies.

The intense search stunned workers and visitors, many of who ran into stores for safety.

A saleswoman at the Harvard Shop, which is inside The Garage, witnessed the arrest through the shop window.

She said she received an alert about the police searching for a man, and then around five to 10 minutes later, at 12:40 p.m., police started clearing people out of the corridor that leads to Ben & Jerry’s.

“They came in, kind of in formation, guns drawn, moving through here,” said the saleswoman, who did not want to give her name.

There were only five or six customers and a stock worker in the shop when it unfolded, the salesperson said. Everyone moved to the back of the store to be safe.


“I saw them kind of rush and get him on the ground, and then they lifted him up and he was in cuffs up against the wall,” she said.

Law enforcement officials inside The Garage, where Ben & Jerry's is located in Harvard Square.
Law enforcement officials inside The Garage, where Ben & Jerry's is located in Harvard Square.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Arun Budsatsoki, owner of the Subway shop in The Garage, said he heard a noise and saw panicked people running into his store.

“They came inside the Subway, in our store, so we took them in back in the alleyway where it was safe,” he said.

He said the sound might have been from a chair knocked over while people were fleeing. “[It was] not only one or two people, everybody, more than 50 people running,” he said.

He said the chaos was over in five minutes.

“We were confused — what’s happening? — And then everything went normal,” he said.

John Selletto, owner of Petali Flowers, which is across Mount Auburn Street from The Garage, said people poured out of the mall.

“Next thing we knew, the cops had the guy in handcuffs and were taking him away,” he said. “It was very exciting. So much drama.”

Construction worker Jose Rodriguez said he just saw police everywhere.

Police stood outside a Harvard Square garage Tuesday shortly after the suspect was apprehended.
Police stood outside a Harvard Square garage Tuesday shortly after the suspect was apprehended.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Bo Kim, 25, who completed his first year at Harvard Law School, was in the area when the alert went out.

Kim immediately texted his mother and twin brother so that they heard the news from him versus online.

“It would have been scary normally — but I was particularly aware given the recent events,” Kim said, referring to mass shootings in Texas and Ohio this weekend.


“My brother was pretty concerned, and he kept checking Twitter to make sure there weren’t any updates he was missing,” he said.

“My family tends to be quite concerned about these things — these high-visibility, allegedly low-probability events,” he said.

Panjrolia had allegedly opened fire on his parents with an assault rifle inside the family home in Philadelphia on Aug. 3, killing his father.

“The son went upstairs and retrieved an assault rifle and went into a first-floor bathroom discharging the weapon once,” Philadelphia police wrote in a blog post Sunday. “The son exited the bathroom and then pointed the gun in the direction of his parents. He fired multiple shots at his father striking him in the head.”

The victim was identified as 60-year-old Mahendra B. Panjrolia.

The shooting happened around 9:53 p.m. Saturday, police said.

Sohan Panjrolia has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and might be using narcotics, police said.

Panjrolia left in a Camry that Philadelphia police located a few blocks away Saturday. They had been searching for him since.

The probe into Panjrolia’s whereabouts included response from US Marshals in Boston and Philadelphia, Cambridge, and Harvard police, and Massachusetts State Police, according to authorities.

State Police and Cambridge police detectives are working with law enforcement colleagues in Philadelphia “in furtherance of the investigation in Massachusetts,” according to a statement from State Police.

Sohan Panjrolia.
Sohan Panjrolia.Philadelphia Police Department

A spokesman for Philadelphia police said the department had no new information to share regarding Panjrolia’s case on Tuesday.

Messages left with the Philadelphia district attorney’s office were not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.


Danny McDonald and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Maria Lovato and Alyssa Lukpat contributed to this report.