A Suffolk County Grand Jury on Wednesday returned indictments charging Massachusetts State Police trooper Matthew Sheehan for firing a semi-automatic rifle at an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and injuring the operator during a chaotic pursuit near South Bay Mall in February 2018.
Sheehan is charged with two counts: with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a dangerous weapon.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my staff who have led this investigation, as well as the members of the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit,’’ said District Attorney Rachel Rollins in a statement on Friday. “This investigation was thorough and resulted in the right charging decision.”
At the time of the 2018 shooting, State Police and other law enforcement agencies attempted to surround a group of individuals who were riding dirtbikes and ATVs in a reckless manner near South Bay center and on Interstate 93 South.
The police had positioned their vehicles and activated their lights to contain the group of riders. Sheehan was the only law enforcement officer of the 13 on site to fire his weapon. According to Rollins, Sheehan chose to use his department-issued semi-automatic rifle, which he retrieved from his cruiser, instead of the handgun that officers customarily carry on their hips.
State Police detectives and Suffolk County prosecutors assigned to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office determined that Sheehan fired two rounds.
According to a statement from the DA’s office, one of the bullets that Sheehan fired entered the side of the ATV’s tire, not the front. The angle at which the bullet struck the tire indicates the ATV was parallel to Sheehan, not heading towards him, thus not presenting the imminent danger that would permit the use potentially deadly force in self-defense.
“Every day I have the honor of working with law enforcement officers who uphold the law and keep our communities safe,’’ said District Attorney Rollins. “Members of law enforcement have a special role in society and overwhelmingly, these officers serve with distinction, courage and compassion for the communities they protect. Unfortunately, there are a small number whose actions are unacceptable and, as we allege here, criminal.”
Of the individuals who were driving their ATVs and dirtbikes recklessly that night in 2018, eight were arrested. Seven of those eight individuals have been prosecuted and their cases resolved. One case remains pending in the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court.
“They are being held accountable,’’ District Attorney Rollins said. “The actions of these individuals should not have prompted a trained law enforcement professional to respond with deadly force, as we allege.”
Sheehan, who was suspended without pay following the incident, is scheduled to be arraigned in October 10.