The Boston Police officer who shot Terrence Coleman in the foyer of his apartment building last October had little choice, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office says in a report on the incident.
Officer Garrett Boyle fired his service firearm twice after Coleman attacked two EMTs called by Coleman's mother, knocking one of them to the ground before trying to stab him with a 10-inch kitchen knife, then tried to stab two police officers who tried to help the EMT, according to the report, released yesterday by DA Dan Conley.
After wrestling briefly with Mr. Coleman in an attempt to subdue and disarm him, the officers began to lose the ability to control him, and it was at that point that Officer Boyle shot Mr. Coleman. Under the extremely difficult circumstances facing him, Officer Boyle's actions in firing his service weapon are warranted in connection with Mr. Coleman's death. In reaching these findings, I am keenly aware of the tremendous loss suffered by Mr. Coleman's family, particularly his mother, whose attempt to seek help for her son ended in his death during an armed confrontation with police.
Coleman's mother, Hope, however, says the officer should face trial - the only place where the facts can truly be ascertained, her lawyers said. In a statement, they said:
“Unfortunately, the decision by District Attorney Dan Conley continues a disturbing national pattern of prosecutors failing to hold police officers accountable for fatal shootings of Black men. The investigation that led to that decision was not truly ‘independent,’ because the DA's office works closely with Boston Police every day.
According to the DA's report, Hope Coleman called 911 from her 245 Shawmut Ave. home around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 30 to seek help for her son Terrence, 31. She told the 911 operator that he suffered from "schizophrenic paranoia" and had stopped taking his medication.
Eight minutes later, Boyle and another officer drove up, followed shortly after by two EMTs. According to the report, Hope Coleman told them her son would likely not react well to seeing the police officers who, under city protocol accompany EMTs on such calls.
The EMTs agreed to go into the apartment alone and found Coleman sitting on a bed, his head down. He would not talk to the EMTs, but stood up, grabbed a bag and walked out of the apartment into the building foyer. When he spotted the police cruiser outside, the report continues, he became very agitated and made "loud, vulgar statements" about President Obama's daughters and others.
The report says he then reached into his bag and pulled out a 10-inch kitchen knife - a finding Hope Coleman disputes. Coleman knocked one of the EMTs down and began lunging at him with the knife - as the other EMT screamed "Get us some help! into his radio before grabbing Coleman by the back to try to get him away from his partner. Just then his partner managed to get his feet up to Coleman's chest and gave him a kick hard enough to send Coleman flying backwards, with him landing on top of the other EMT on a set of stairs.
The two cops rushed in and the EMTs fled the building, the report says. The cops pulled Coleman off the stairs and onto the floor, face down Boyle's partner, Kevin Finn, managed to get atop the 5'10, 240-lb. Coleman and tried to get him ready to be cuffed, but then noticed the knife. Coleman refused a demand to drop the knife and continued to struggle and try to stab the partner, the report says.
With Finn looking like he was about to lose in the struggle, Boyle ordered him off Coleman. Boyle shot Coleman twice in the stomach. Coleman "immediately ceased to struggle," one of the officers kicked the knife a distance away and then the two officers began applying first aid, the report continues. The EMTs rushed back in, and took over Coleman's care until he could be transported to Tufts Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m.
The report adds that both EMTs required medical treatment of their own, one for back pain and blood in his urine, the other for a variety of injuries to his back, shoulders, arm and knee.