Newton, MA – A Massachusetts district court judge determined Newton police were justified in using deadly force against a knife-wielding, methamphetamine-fueled suspect who came within inches of stabbing an officer during a violent encounter in 2021.
“At that moment no reasonable alternative existed, except for the use of deadly force,” Newton District Court Judge Jeanmarie Carroll wrote in a 15-page report released on May 17, according to the Boston Globe.
Carroll said the death of 28-year-old Michael Conlon was a tragedy, but that Newton police acted reasonably when they opened fire on him on Jan. 5, 2021.
“The court does not find that the actions of any of the Newton officers or supervisory responsibilities make them criminally responsible for the tragic death of Conlon,” the judge wrote, according to the Boston Globe.
The series of events leading to the fatal officer-involved shooting began at approximately 1:45 p.m., when Conlon allegedly entered the Indulge candy store on Lincoln Street while armed with a knife, WBTS reported.
The store owner, who was working alone at the time, later told investigators Conlon appeared “rattled and unhinged” and that he repeatedly told her to go upstairs with him, the Boston Globe reported.
The woman refused and said she told Conlon he was scaring her.
She ultimately called 911.
Conlon was still armed with the knife when Newton police arrived at the scene, the Boston Globe reported.
The suspect took off on foot and ran up to the third floor of the building as police chased after him and ordered him to drop the knife.
He refused to comply.
Officers took cover inside a third-floor apartment after the woman who lived there fled to safety, Boston.com reported.
Conlon remained in the hallway.
The officers then called for additional backup and requested a negotiator respond to the scene, the Boston Globe reported.
A Newton Police Department (NPD) social worker also arrived at the scene, but did not enter the building due to safety concerns, according to Carroll’s report.
While they were waiting for the negotiator to arrive, NPD Officer Francis Scaltreto and Captain Dennis Dowling went up to the apartment to explain the next steps to the suspect, the Boston Globe reported.
Investigators said the suspect “became confrontational” at times, to including arming himself with a fire extinguisher at one point, according to Boston.com.
Officer Scaltreto appeared to be making progress with Conlon and eventually yelled out that the suspect had dropped the knife, the Boston Globe reported.
That’s when Capt. Dowling gave Sergeant Glenn Chisholm the go-ahead to deploy a less-lethal beanbag shotgun at the suspect.
Officer Chisholm stepped out of the apartment and pointed the weapon at Conlon’s collar bone, but the weapon misfired.
The suspect responded by grabbing the knife and running at Officer Chisholm, according to Carroll’s report.
“Officers repeatedly yelled, ‘drop the knife,’” as the suspect held the blade up at shoulder level and started bringing it downward in “a stabbing motion” towards the officer, the judge said.
“With the knife coming down just inches from Chisholm, Officers Scaltreto and [Richard] Benes discharged their firearms and one of the troopers deployed his Taser,” Carroll wrote, according to the Boston Globe.
Conlon was rushed Newton Wellesley Hospital, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds, WBTS reported.
The Massachusetts Chief Medical Examiner’s Office concluded Conlon had methamphetamine and several other substances in his blood at the time of the shooting, the Boston Globe reported.
Carroll determined that Officer Scaltreto and Officer Benes’ use of force was “objectively reasonable,” as was Capt. Dowling’s authorization to utilize the less-lethal shotgun, according to the report.
“Any reasonable law enforcement officer in the same position would reasonably believe that he and his fellow officers as well as others, were in imminent danger of being seriously injured or killed,” the judge wrote.
The inquest into the fatal officer-involved shooting was conducted between Dec. 6, 2021 and Jan. 27, the Boston Globe reported.
Nineteen witnesses testified during the proceedings, and the court reviewed a slew of other evidence, WBTS reported.
Carroll’s report, which was dated March 14, was subsequently forwarded to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office, according to the Boston Globe.
Ryan issued a statement saying her office will not file criminal charges against any of the officers involved in the incident.
Protesters denounced the fatal officer-involved shooting and claimed police could have done more to avoid using deadly force against the meth-fueled suspect, WBTS reported.
They have also demanded that additional mental health services be made available to help people like Conlon.