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Ashland police shooting of suspect was justified, DA says

Posted by Your Town  December 12, 2013 09:27 PM

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The following is a press release from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office

WOBURN – The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office have conducted an investigation into the facts and circumstances of an on-duty officer-involved shooting with a department issued firearm that occurred on July 2, 2013 at 13 Metropolitan Avenue in Ashland and resulted in the death of Andrew Stigliano, 27, of Ashland.

The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, by statute, has the duty and authority to oversee all death investigations in Middlesex County. As such, the goal of this investigation was to determine if the fatal shooting of Mr. Stigliano by on-duty police officers was legally justified.

The investigation into the officer-involved shooting included interviews of all the responding Ashland Police Officers and civilian witnesses; ballistics examination of evidence found at the scene; review of radio transmissions, police reports, and cell phone records; examinations of several cell phones; and review of medical examiner reports and statements.

That investigation revealed the following facts:

On July 2, 2013 at approximately 10:50 a.m., an Ashland Police Officer was on patrol in a marked police cruiser on Route 135 West when he observed a vehicle pull into traffic. The officer was forced to stop to avoid a collision with the vehicle. The officer recognized the driver as Andrew Stigliano and recalled that he had recently seen Stigliano’s name on the department’s list of individuals with active arrest warrants. The officer radioed to the station to confirm that the arrest warrants were still active and while doing so, he turned his vehicle around and followed Stigliano onto Metropolitan Avenue. The police dispatcher confirmed there were two active arrest warrants for Stigliano and his address on the warrants was 13 Metropolitan Avenue. The officer observed that Stigliano had just pulled into the driveway of that address.

The officer radioed for additional units to respond as backup. A female passenger in Stigliano’s car exited the vehicle and ran toward the backyard. Stigliano entered the home.

Under Massachusetts law, when police possess a valid arrest warrant for a suspect and have a reasonable belief that the suspect is inside his residence, the police may enter the residence to make an arrest without the need for an additional search warrant.

Additional officers arrived, announced their presence and made demands for Stigliano to open the door and submit to arrest, which went unanswered. Officers secured the premises and awaited additional assistance including the arrival and deployment of police K-9 handled by Officer Christopher Alberini. The canine, a passive alert dog, was trained to search for suspects inside of buildings. Officers once again announced their presence and called for the suspect to answer the door. They again received no response. After forcibly entering the residence, two pit bulls were secured in the garage and a third dog was kept secure in a bathroom. Thereafter, a canine warning was issued and, having received no response, the canine was deployed.

At approximately 11:20 a.m., while Officer Alberini was conducting the search of the first floor of the home with the canine, Ashland Police dispatch received a call from Attorney Joseph Hennessy. The dispatcher radioed to officers on scene that an attorney was on the line reporting that he was receiving text messages from Stigliano. The attorney told the dispatcher that officers on scene should “use caution.” Hennessy told the dispatcher that Stigliano did not mention any weapons but spoke about harming officers. Officers on scene, including Alberini, confirmed they heard this transmission from dispatch as it was being relayed over the radio.

At that time, the dog had a reaction to the scuttle opening up to the attic. Based on the dog’s reaction, as well as his observing a ladder propped up next to the scuttle and a fresh scrape mark by the opening, Officer Alberini believed that Stigliano was hiding in the attic. Verbal warnings were again issued to the suspect in the attic and no response was received. The attic was very dark and hot and was unfinished, with exposed insulation, wood beams and no flooring. The K-9 was deployed into the attic to locate the suspect.

In the attic, the K-9 alerted and made contact with the suspect by biting Stigliano’s left leg. Officer Alberini proceeded forward in the dark attic to separate and secure the suspect. At this time he observed the suspect grabbing the dog’s face and ordered him to release the dog and submit. As Officer Alberini was preparing to use physical force to separate the dog and the suspect, he noticed Stigliano had let go of the dog with his left hand. He saw Stigliano pulling his arm up and in his hand was a shotgun. Officer Alberini could see there were live rounds on the butt stock.

Confined to a small space with little room to maneuver, Officer Alberini struck Stigliano in the head with his hand, unholstered his department issued weapon, yelled “gun” repeatedly to warn other officers, and instructed Stigliano to drop the gun, which he did not. Fearing for his safety and the safety of other officers, Officer Alberini discharged two rounds from his weapon while engaged with the suspect. The first report of “possible shots fired” was made at 11:22:44 a.m.

After the shots were fired, other officers secured Stigliano’s loaded shotgun and called for an ambulance. Fire department medics arrived and Stigliano was pronounced dead in the attic at approximately 11:26 a.m.

An autopsy was performed on July 3, 2013 by Dr. Renee Robinson of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The cause of death was determined to be gunshot wounds to the torso. There were two gunshot wounds to the torso and both bullets were recovered at autopsy.

Stigliano’s shotgun that was recovered from the scene was a 16 gauge Ithaca model with one live shot shell in the chamber, four live shot shells in the tubular magazine, and eight live shot shells in the side saddle holder.

During the investigation, in addition to the text message conversations reported by Attorney Hennessy to dispatch, officials discovered that, unknown to the officers in the house, Stigliano also texted two other people while he was in the attic, expressing to them in more explicit terms his intent to harm and kill officers. The investigation revealed that Stigliano was aware of the officers’ presence in his home and that he wrote in a text that he was “not going alive.”

According to records obtained during the investigation, the following texts were exchanged during the time between when Stigliano entered the home and when the K-9 was deployed into the attic:

Texts between Stigliano’s phone and Attorney Hennessy’s phone:

Stigliano phone: “Get to my house asap cops surrounding it right Now”
Hennessy phone: “I’m in Foxborough right now not even close to Ashland”
Stigliano phone: “Damn, its like they new, im taking as many down with me as I can, godspeed sir”
Hennessy phone: “Don’t do anything stupid”
Stigliano phone: “Im sick of them destroying my life, this is bullshit, I can take them all out (expletive) this happy 4th”
Hennessy phone: “Please do not do anything”
Hennessy phone: “Can you call me”
Stigliano phone: “Then someone help me, or wut choice I have? U tell me, im not going alive, bottom line, n no I cant”
Hennessy phone: “I’m calling”
Hennessy phone: “U”
Hennessy cell calls Stigliano’s cell phone. Stigliano does not answer.
Stigliano phone: “Cant answer call police station”
Hennessy phone “Are you in custody”
Stigliano phone: “Tell them to leave, kickin door in now”
Hennessy phone: “R u ok. Do not do Anything that will hurt you in the long run.”
Hennessy phone: “Andrew please do not do anything stupid”

Records indicate Stigliano also exchanged the following texts with the female who had been the passenger in his vehicle:

Female friend phone: “Its (name deleted), I went to the salon, don’t answer the door.!!!”
Female friend phone: “Piggy (expletive)”
Stigliano phone: “Not home”
Female friend phone: “Good.!!! I love you so much”
Stigliano phone: “Dude love u, im killin em”
Female friend phone: “Cop left hahaha”
Female friend phone: “Don’t get out”
Female friend phone: “I’m not sure”
Stigliano phone: “Chk” (Unread)

Also while in the home, Stigliano exchanged the following texts with a male friend:

Male friend phone: “What’s the deal, cowboy?? I’m dying here.”
Stigliano phone: “cops are surrounding me”
Stigliano phone: “Going out with a bang, godspeed”
Male friend phone: “?”
Male friend phone: “you (expletive) with me”

Applying the case law pertaining to the use of deadly force to defend oneself to the facts as determined by this investigation, the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has determined that the use of lethal force by Officer Alberini was justified based on his need to protect himself and his fellow officers from the immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm from Andrew Stigliano.

In Massachusetts, a person may use deadly force, as here, to defend himself or another, if the person has reasonable grounds to believe, and actually believes, that he is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, and that no other means would suffice to prevent such harm. In the totality of these circumstances, Officer Alberini was reasonable in his belief that he was in imminent danger of being shot by Andrew Stigliano.

Having investigated and determined that the shooting by the officer was legally justified, we have referred the matter back to the Ashland Police Department, in accordance with the established protocol of the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, so that they may perform an internal administrative review of the incident as they deem appropriate.

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