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Another Woburn officer is shot

Veteran lawman expected to live; suspects at large

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By Peter Schworm and John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / September 7, 2011

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WOBURN - A veteran police officer was shot multiple times as he intervened in a daytime jewelry store holdup yesterday, sparking a massive manhunt for several suspects and stunning a police force that just eight months ago buried another officer killed in a similar heist.

Despite an extensive search of the area that closed off residential neighborhoods and froze a busy commercial crossroads, as many as three suspects in the attempted heist - possibly two men and a woman - remained at large. Authorities warned they were armed and dangerous. Multiple SWAT teams and more than 350 police officers responded.

“This is a comprehensive manhunt,’’ Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr. told police officers from across the region who assembled at the scene. “And it won’t stop until we have every suspect in custody.’’

Authorities say 51-year-old Robert DeNapoli was among the first officers to arrive minutes after an 11 a.m. 911 call about a robbery at Musto Jewelers at a bustling shopping plaza on Cambridge Road.

Gunfire broke out, and witnesses said they saw a tall man dressed in black shoot DeNapoli several times at close range, mounting the hood of his cruiser while a wounded DeNapoli lay defenseless on the ground.

“I saw a man just bound on top of the cruiser, and he held the gun with both hands and he looked down at the cop, and he shot him,’’ said Danny Harrington, who works at the Lawless Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership across the street from the shooting.

Harrington said he was shocked by the brazen nature of the suspect’s actions.

“The guy could have left him and ran, but he didn’t. He just stayed to shoot him,’’ he said.

Authorities said at least two police officers fired their weapons and that a male suspect, whom they declined to identify, was wounded, taken to a hospital, and arrested.

DeNapoli was seriously injured but was expected to survive, authorities said. He was listed in good condition late last night at the Lahey Clinic.

Coming so soon after the late-December shooting of Woburn police Officer John Maguire, killed at a holdup at a department store, yesterday’s shooting reignited widespread public outrage.

“We’ve had enough tragedy in this city to last us a lifetime,’’ said Raymond B. Drapeau, a city councilor.

After the shooting, SWAT teams, FBI agents, and officers from communities near and far descended on the Four Corners intersection, a busy commercial strip not far from Route 128. More than 100 state troopers responded, as well as officers from as far away as Mansfield.

A helicopter whirred overhead and unmarked police cars rushed off in convoys.

Witnesses, meanwhile, described the shooting and its aftermath as a savage and chaotic scene.

Jon Stevenson, who works at a service station across from the plaza, said he heard as many as 10 gunshots, then saw a man dressed in black flee the scene, rushing into oncoming traffic to escape pursuing officers.

“Police were here in a split-second,’’ Stevenson said.

Elizabeth Hastings, manager of a restaurant near the jewelry store, said she heard the shooting, then looked up to see a large man standing by a police cruiser.

“And then I saw the police officer on the ground and I started screaming,’’ she said.

Authorities said they had spoken with DeNapoli, a 16-year-veteran of the force, and were trying to piece together the details of the shooting.

Leone said the suspect in custody would be arraigned as soon as he had sufficiently recovered from his injuries, either at the hospital or in court.

In a radio broadcast, Boston police alerted officers that three suspects at large might be heading to the city. One of the suspects was apparently injured and was seen holding his side as he fled, the broadcast said.

Late in the afternoon, Leone said police were looking for “relevant vehicles’’ but did not provide more information.

Authorities said they had no reason to believe that the suspects had remained in the Woburn area but that they were focusing the manhunt on the surrounding area.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation for law enforcement,’’ Leone said.

Police recovered significant evidence at the scene, including a mask and a discarded bag containing jewelry.

Leone said he was confident DeNapoli would make a full and swift recovery. According to one law enforcement official, DeNapoli was shot in the lower torso and hand.

“Our thoughts, prayers, and wishes go out to him and his family for a speedy recovery, and the city appreciates his efforts,’’ said Scott Galvin, Woburn’s mayor.

Police Chief Richard Kelley said he had spoken with DeNapoli at the hospital. He said the officer was “with his family, and we’re just hoping for the best for Officer DeNapoli.’’

A fellow officer said that DeNapoli and the officer slain last December were close friends.

Philip Mahoney, the city’s former police chief, described DeNapoli as a respected professional and dedicated family man who was well-liked.

“I was just so happy, and relieved when I found out I could talk to him and he wasn’t critical,’’ he said. “I couldn’t stand to lose another officer. I just couldn’t.’’

Martin Finucane and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Jaime Lutz, Amanda Cedrone, and Rick Nohl contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. John M. Guilfoil at jguilfoil@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globe_guilfoil.