When Marquis Barker arrived at his gray clapboard home in Dorchester on Wednesday night, his wife of four years did not recognize him.
Barker, 38, a normally soft-spoken jail officer for the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, was wild-eyed and rambling, Kim Sanders Barker said yesterday. So she called 911 and implored dispatchers to send someone to help subdue her husband.
When Boston police pulled up to the Fuller Street address, Barker allegedly waved a weapon - which police yesterday identified as a pellet gun resembling a semiautomatic handgun. He yelled, "Shoot me! Kill me!" police said yesterday, then allegedly stole a police cruiser that had been left running by one of the officers, and led police on a chase through Dorchester and Mattapan.
It ended a half-mile away when Barker crashed into a metal fence at a Walgreens and then confronted officers, who surrounded him with their cars and ordered him to drop the gun. When he did not, police said yesterday, officers fired several times; his wife said Barker was hit in the arm and head. Barker, who was in his 18th year as a jail officer for the sheriff's department, was later pronounced dead at Boston Medical Center.
Prosecutors at the Suffolk district attorney's office are investigating the shooting.
It was the fifth fatal shooting by a Boston police officer since 2002. The officers who fired on Barker, whose names police did not release yesterday, will be on paid administrative leave until after the investigation. Police said in a statement that several officers were treated for injuries and stress at local hospitals. On Wednesday night, Superintendent Robert Dunford had said two officers were injured when they crashed their cruisers during the pursuit.
Kim Sanders Barker told reporters outside her home yesterday that she wants to know why police "let it get to the extent that they did."
"I need answers," she said. "Eighteen years in law enforcement, and this is what he gets? Shot in the head?"
She added: "Taser the man. Handcuff him, and put him down on the ground. Get him to a medical facility."
Asked whether they have any evidence the shooting constitutes a justifiable use of force, Jake Wark, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said: "It's far too early to comment."
Outside Marquis Barker's home, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral said he had a good reputation. Cabral and Eugene Sumpter, superintendent of the Nashua Street Jail, where Barker worked, visited Barker's wife to express their condolences.
He was "an excellent officer, with a good sense of humor. Came in and did his job," Cabral said. "Lots of people don't last as long as he did" on the job.
She said she expects a thorough investigation.
"Any police shooting and investigation that ensues is an examination to see if the amount of force was necessary," she said. "I expect the investigation will vet that issue."
Barker met his wife at a birthday party, and the couple had been together 10 years. They had five children ranging in age from 3 to 25. She described him yesterday as a homebody who often took the children to school and their activities.
Ron Taylor, Barker's older brother, described him as a family man and youth sports coach who "worked hard every day" and had children who loved him.
"He was their hero," Taylor said. "Anything else that happened last night was not that man."
A woman who identified herself as Barker's sister, but did not give her name, said her brother "was a good kid" who grew up in Boston. She said that in addition to his wife and children, he leaves two brothers, two sisters, and his elderly parents.
Barker worked in a tight-knit unit on the overnight shift at the Nashua Street Jail, where he monitored inmates and did periodic head counts. Steven Tompkins, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said Barker had no disciplinary record.
"He is one of the better officers of the department . . . soft-spoken, professional, courteous," Sumpter said. "This is out of character for Officer Barker."
He last worked the Tuesday-night-to-Wednesday-morning shift. "He was in good spirits and joking around," Sumpter said.
But when Kim Sanders Barker arrived home around 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, she knew immediately that something was wrong when he told her he had been to a mall in Dedham, though he rarely shopped.
"He was foaming at the mouth, rambling, eyes were stretched out of his head," she said. "He just took off . . . running up and down the street, like he had just come out of combat."
She said she wondered if Barker was having an adverse reaction to medication; he suffered from type 2 diabetes.
"He totally looked like a stranger," she said. "He was just rambling on about a bunch of things. None of it made sense."
Police logged a call at 5:51 p.m. Wednesday for "a disturbance" at the family's home.
"Upon arrival, officers encountered a hysterical male with a firearm," police said in a statement.
Officers ordered Barker, who was screaming, to drop his gun, but he ignored them, according to the statement.
"During the confrontation, the suspect, while pointing the weapon at himself, entered a vacated cruiser and drove off," police said.
About five blocks away, at the corner of Morton and Norfolk streets in Mattapan, Barker allegedly crashed the cruiser into a metal fence in the Walgreens parking lot.
"Again, while gesturing and pointing the weapon in a threatening and menacing manner, the suspect chose to ignore the officer's lawful commands," police said. "Fearing for the safety of innocent bystanders as well as fellow officers, police officers discharged their department-issued firearms."
Police said they found the pellet gun at the scene. They described it as "a replica of a semiautomatic handgun."
In recent years, Boston police have launched investigations after officers used lethal force.
In October 2005, police fatally shot Stanley Seney, 28, after they saw him holding a gun and standing over the body of a man who had been shot in the Theater District.
In 2004, police killed Luis Gonzalez, 58, in the South End after officers said he had lunged at them with knives. They also shot to death Bert W. Bowen, 40, in Roxbury, after he pointed a gun at them during a pursuit.
In 2002, the department reevaluated its policy on firing at moving vehicles after officers fatally shot Eveline Barros-Cepeda, 25, while she sat in the back seat of a car that had hit a police officer in Dorchester.