We’re going to break every rule in the book and comment on a shooting based largely on early media reports, because it seems likely that some of these early lessons will be subsumed into the usual drum circles beating out The Usual Narrative™ in a matter of days.
We’ll start with what is known: Boston PD responded to a domestic. They were met by a man who said his roommate threatened him with a knife. They made entry, and, in the basement of 136 Gladstone St in East Boston, encountered an armed man –who announced himself with gunfire. The two policemen were suddenly down, wounded. It was other officers from Special Operations who happened to be training nearby, that responded to their calls for help, and ultimately shot and killed the suspect.
[Boston Police Commissioner William B.] Evans said officers responding to a fight between roommates on Gladstone Street were fired upon by 33-year-old Kirk Figueroa, who shot and wounded Officer Richard Cintolo, a 28-year veteran of the department, and Officer Matt Morris, a 12-year veteran. Figueroa, of East Boston, was killed by police.
This is Why Wackers Weird You Out
Portrait of the doer, in what seems to have been a self-awarded uniform. He was not ever Airborne in his short military career, and that’s a foreign cap badge.
Figueroa was an oddball, the sort of cop wannabe that Massachusetts coppers call a “wacker.” (Maybe cops elsewhere use the term, too, but we’ve only heard it in the Bay State). You know the guy: he’s always trying to get a law enforcement job. He dresses in blue 5.11s. (For church!) He drives a Crown Vic with some of its cop lights still on it (often, one that the state troopers were glad to see the last of at 283,000 miles). Yeah, that guy.
Figueroa had served in the National Guard in a specialized MP correctional unit, a unit that trained to run a POW camp or other detainee or prison facility. (see UPDATE 1130 14 Oct 16 below).
Figueroa had worked as a corrections officer (briefly) but quit to become a bounty hunter in California (we are not making that up, but maybe the Boston Herald, where we saw it, did). He lived in several states pursuing law enforcement jobs. In MA, he became a “constable,” which probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. A Massachusetts constable does swear an oath, but has no arrest powers and no more firearms rights than any other MA subject (which is to say, practically none). His powers are constrained to service of civil process — that’s it.
It is a job often held as a stop-gap by youths dreaming of a police job, and held for longer periods by wackers who wish they were cops. Good luck sorting out whether a guy is a Figueroa or not beforehand.
The press is complaining that, even though he was a sworn constable, he didn’t have any Massachusetts gun license. (In MA you need a license even for long guns or BB guns). Obviously the lack of the license prevented this crime… oh, wait. There’s 125 or so murders a year in MA and the vast majority are committed with guns by people who did not have a license for them. It’s almost as if murderers don’t obey other laws, too!
Figueroa reportedly had a profile on a website called Elite Policing (if so, it had been removed by noon yesterday).
A roommate told police that Figueroa threatened him with a “big knife.”
He reportedly said to the roommate he was squabbling with and his other roommate, Diego Morello, “You’re going to read about me in the newspaper. Everyone is going to know my name.”
Yeah. We know your name, all right. We just can’t print it in this family-friendly blog.
Some things went well
Knowing the two cops were shot and down, at least seven more cops flooded the building, and raced towards the wounded men, Officers Richard Cintolo and Matt Morris. Cintolo was retirement-eligible with 28 years in; Morris had 12 on the force. Both were down hard with critical wounds; Cintolo was shot in the chest and face.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Morris had the more immediately threatening injury, a massive leg wound that left him bleeding from the femoral artery. When Special Operations hit the building, officers provided life-saving buddy-aid: even under the suspect’s fire, Officer Clifton Singletary put his hands in to Morris’s gaping wound to try to stop the bleeding, and called for an officer with a tourniquet. Sergeant Norberto Perez, a veteran of over 30 years, came up with the lifesaving device and emplaced it, while he, Singletary, and Morris all tried to stay prone and out of the line of fire. A third officer proned out and neutralized the suspect with a carbine.
Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a regional trauma center to which the wounded men were transported, told police that Morris would have bled out without the tourniquet.
Morris, who lives in the neighborhood he grew up in, a neighborhood full of cops, was one of two plainclothes cops decorated in 2005 for coaxing a gunman into surrender. His wife is a nurse.
These are things we have been told but cannot confirm
Figueroa’s weapon was reportedly a shotgun. (Some press have reported it as an AR-15, but they are the ones that report everything as an AR-15. The “shotgun” source is more reliable, but notes he is not certain of his information).
(Update: this story says “tactical shotgun” but quotes commissioner as saying “rifle.” )
The guy supposedly told his roommates, who he’d been squabbling with, that he was going to be famous and wouldn’t be taken alive. (The roommates have been interviewed by investigating officers).
When the scene was still a little confused, officers took “a couple” of suspects and treated them… firmly… only to find they were not connected to the crime, and their one suspect was on his way to ambient temperature.
And… the presence of Special Operations and the “gun truck” that carries their hardware was somewhat providential, they happened to be a short drive away when the emergency call came. Normal Boston Police officers are not trained on carbines and not permitted to carry them in their vehicles. The BPD has grudgingly agreed to put carbines in patrol supervisors’ cars.
Lessons learned so far
- If somebody gets the drop on you, you’re probably going to get shot.
- Most cops can go a whole career without ever encountering an armed suspect, but you can still encounter two in a few years, like Morris did.
- What worked for one encounter with an armed suspect might not work next time.
- Tourniquets. If as many of us carried tourniquets as carry guns — not just cops, but all of us — we might do some real good. How about herd immunity to exsanguination?
- Sometimes, there’s a fine line between a guy who wants to be a cop and a cop wannabe.
- Sometimes, there’s a fine line between the guys getting locked up and the guys doing the locking. While it does seem like Figueroa is very different from the cops who nailed him, if this particular incident hadn’t blown up, who’s to say he wouldn’t have gotten hired somewhere, sooner or later?
- Our perception is that these kinds of domestics-turned-suicide-by-cop are becoming more frequent. Cops, prosecutors, defense attorneys, what do you guys think? Heck, everybody.
- While we’re asking, why not the big ask on these incidents? Why?
- This is purest speculation, but we wonder if the Lautenberg Amendment has an unintended consequence of producing these violent episodes. Wait, hear us out; it may be counterintuitive, but it’s not irrational. This guy Figueroa was intent on becoming a cop, and he had to know that his dream was gone forever once his roommate called the real cops on him. At that point, his life as he has conceived it is over. The one and only thing he wanted was yanked away from him. He’s a desperate man, operating on raw emotion, not logic.
- Gun licensing kind of stinks at keeping cops safe, doesn’t it?
UPDATE 1130 14 Oct 16
The unit Figueroa served in was an Army Reserve cage-kicker outfit, not a Guard one. We regret the error. The unit has wasted no time in distancing themselves from him, pointing out that he never attended basic training or AIT and didn’t even last half a year before quitting, ostensibly on hardship grounds. (That doesn’t mean what you think it means, that you are the sole caretaker of your dying mama or something. In the context of reserve component service, it usually means that you are moving a distance from the unit or that your work schedule conflicts with the drill schedule). The Army Times:
Figueroa, founder of Code Blue Protection Corp., claimed on his company’s website, www.elitepolicing.org, he served nearly a decade as an MP, but he served a mere five months, according to an Army spokesman.
“Mr. Figueroa never attended basic training or advanced individual training. He did enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve in February 2003, but received a hardship discharge five months later,” Wayne Hall said in a statement.
So he’s a wannabe. And have we not said before, over and over again, that it’s never just military impersonation with a wannabe? There’s usually considerable crime and other misconduct comorbid in these strange cases.
The shooter also touted his experience as a Boston constable, a law enforcement program that allows trained and sworn-in members to carry out arrests and serve legal documents. He also described himself as a West Virginia corrections officer, trained private investigator, and California bounty hunter.
As we have seen, that is a dishonest description of the Boston constable program (they have no arrest powers and do not receive any law enforcement training). His stint as a WV cage-kicker was shorter than his time as an Army Reservist — blink and you missed it. If he had any PI training, there’s been no sign of it yet. And “California bounty hunter?” We guess the bounties must have been meager in CA, or he wouldn’t be living with (and threatening) two roommates in a working-class and immigrant-heavy neighborhood in Boston!
UPDATE 1200 14 Oct 16
We’ve learned so many fun facts about the Boston PD SWAT Platoon and the remarkable “gun trucks” unique to the soi-disant Hub of the Universe, that that’s going to be a post of its own. Probably at 1800 today (which means this incident bumps two slots that could have had a gun technical or historical post — we regret, etc.) so stay tuned.