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Officials: Springfield officer fatally shoots man who attacked him with a knife

Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood announces an officer shot and killed a man after he allegedly stabbed the officer in the face, on Sunday, January 9, 2022.
Jeanette DeForge
The Republican / MassLive.com
Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood announces an officer shot and killed a man after he allegedly stabbed the officer in the face, on Sunday, January 9, 2022.

A police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts, fatally shot an adult male Sunday morning, officials said, following an altercation that left the officer with knife wounds to his neck and face.

The shooting is under investigation, officials said, with body-worn camera footage available from the officer and his partner, as well as video taken by a neighbor. Police have not yet released the videos.

At 8:30 a.m. Sunday, two officers responded to a report “of a man who pulled a knife on a victim,” Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood told reporters. Video of the press conference was posted by Western Mass News.

The officers located a man matching the description in the 100 block of Genesee Street, she said.

“The suspect… then stabbed one of the two responding officers in the face, after being told multiple times to drop the weapon,” Clapprood said.

Mayor Domenic Sarno said the officers “showed a tremendous amount of restraint.”

“As he ran away and the officers were backpedaling, [the man] came charging at the officers,” Sarno said, adding that the officers again ordered him to drop the weapon.

“The suspect charged toward the officers with his knife in hand, and the officer was forced to fire two shots from his service pistol, striking the subject both times,” Clapprood said.

“Even with that — with that officer having blood pouring out of his face and neck, he responded professionally and compassionately to give medical assistance, first aid, CPR, to the resident and then calling for the ambulance,” Sarno said.

The man was taken to Baystate Medical Center, Clapprood said, where he “unfortunately succumbed to his injuries.”

Clapprood said the officer, who was also being treated at Baystate on Sunday afternoon, suffered injuries that “are non-life-threatening, but they are devastating to him and his family, as you can imagine.”

“It ended the way it ended. I’m so sorry to the victim’s and suspect’s family. We do not want to see loss of life, that’s not what we’re about,” Clapprood said. “But unfortunately, in our line of business, it can happen. Prayers to his family and to him, and prayers to my officers and speedy recovery for the officer at Baystate."

Sarno also offered his condolences to the deceased's family.

A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a text message Sunday evening seeking the race of the deceased and the officers.

Fatal shootings of Black Americans by police in recent years have attracted increased scrutiny, widespread protests and, in some cases, criminal prosecutions of the officers.

City Councilor Victor Davila, chair of the council's Public Safety Committee, said Monday that Springfield police are being held more accountable after years of controversy, specifically around allegations of abuse and misconduct. But, he said, there also can be a rush to judgement against officers because of the past.

"There's instances in which there's justifiable use of force," Davila said. "I don't have all the details on this, but it would appear to me that when you are being attacked with a knife, you are going to do everything within your power to defend yourself."

Davila said he has full confidence in the Hampden District Attorney's office, which is conducting an officer-involved shooting investigation, in concert with the police detectives' bureau.

Both officers were put on paid administrative leave, Clapprood said.

The video footage from the body-worn cameras will be released “as soon as we’re cleared to do so by the district attorney,” Clapprood said.

A spokesperson for Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni did not answer an email Sunday afternoon.

“In my eyes, unfortunately, it was justified,” said Sarno, who noted he watched body camera video and video taken by a neighbor. “Deadly force was being used against one of our officers, and unfortunately our officer had to use deadly force to keep other individuals from being hurt and/or murdered.”

“Across the board,” the mayor said, “it’s a tragic situation that occurred.”

Adam Frenier contributed.

Updated: January 10, 2022 at 1:38 PM EST
The story has been updated with a quote from Springfield City Councilor Victor Davila, chair of the Public Safety Committee.
Sam Hudzik has overseen local news coverage on New England Public Media since 2013. He manages a team of about a dozen full- and part-time reporters and hosts.