Essex County District Attorney Jon Blodgett announced Friday the investigation into the fatal shooting of a Danvers man by police last month has been concluded, and the finding is clear -- officers were justified in resorting to lethal force.
Blodgett said there’s “no question” Scott Kehoe posed an imminent threat to the lives of the officers at the scene.
“These officers had to make split-second
decisions in a rapidly changing situation in which a man, known to be dangerous
and who had expressed his desire to commit suicide by police officer, was
aggressively brandishing a knife and attempting to stab them,” Blodgett said.
“There is no question that Mr. Kehoe posed an imminent threat of killing or seriously injuring the officers, thus justifying their use of lethal force,” he said.
As promised, Blodgett's office has released a full report on the incident, detailing the actions of police and Kehoe on the night of Aug. 23.
“The public is entitled to know that police officers, who are charged with protecting the public and enforcing the law, have acted lawfully in their use of lethal force,” Blodgett said.
Danvers Police Chief Neil Ouellette said in a press release Friday night he was pleased to see his officers' actions vindicated under scrutiny from Blodgett's office.
"The department believed that our officers were justified in deploying lethal force and expected that the DA would also find that our officers acted within their legal right to protect themselves and the community," Ouellette said.
DA's report lays out specific details that led to shooting
The report released Sept. 13 confirms the details of the incident that were initially reported, starting with Danvers police responding to a report of an assault at the Avalon apartment complex on Kirkbride Drive shortly before 10 p.m. on Aug. 22. Thirty-seven-year-old Kehoe, who lived at the complex, was identified as the alleged assailant.
The report then goes on to lay out each step of the incident in specific detail.
The report says a neighbor of Kehoe’s called police, saying he attacked her 19-year-old son earlier that day. Sgt. Paul Stone and officers Dana Martin, Kevin Wood and Peter Shabowich were then dispatched to the complex.
The officers interviewed the teen and he told them he and Kehoe were at the apartment of another resident (a 37-year-old man) that evening when Kehoe accused the teen of stealing his son’s headphones. When he denied that, Kehoe allegedly grabbed the teen and repeatedly slammed his head against the window and windowsill.
The attack didn’t stop there. The teen told police Kehoe hit him in the head with the butt end of a knife and frisked him while holding a sharp object to his neck.
The teen escaped Kehoe’s clutches, however, when the other man intervened, according to the report.
Officers then mounted a search outside Kehoe’s building – they suspected he was hiding in the woods next to his apartment building. They were also aware at that point of outstanding warrants for Kehoe’s arrest on charges of home invasion, kidnapping and other crimes (relating to incidents in Danvers and Boston).
Officer Justin Ellenton arrived with the department’s K-9 Falco around 11 p.m. to assist in the search, which was unsuccessful. Kehoe didn’t turn up until an hour later when he ran from his apartment building, the report says.
In the meantime, the witness to the earlier incident told police he was just on the phone with Kehoe, who was back inside and told him [the witness] he hoped to commit “suicide by cop.” He then allegedly asked the man for a pocketknife, saying he [Kehoe] feared police were going to beat him to death.
Police said they were also aware Kehoe had a history of violence and psychiatric issues. At approximately 11:50 p.m., state police were contacted and sent Sgt. Eric Bernstein and Trooper Dale Jenkins to the scene.
Officers Ellenton and Wood went to the rear of Kehoe’s first-floor apartment and spotted him through the window. Kehoe then ran out of the apartment and Ellenton radioed to the officers out front.
It was a few minutes past midnight when Kehoe ran from the building, according to police, carrying what looked like a knife. Officers said he ran straight at Jenkins, who tried to tackle Kehoe but pushed him against a car when he [Jenkins] noticed the object in Kehoe’s hand.
Jenkins was left with a long, superficial cut to his right biceps.
Officers then chased Kehoe between parked cars in the lot, before he stopped and faced them, clearly wielding a knife.
The report says the officers repeatedly ordered Kehoe to drop the knife and get on the ground, but his only response was to make “aggressive stabbing and jousting motions” at them.
Ellenton even released Falco at Kehoe to bring him down, but without success as Kehoe tried to stab the dog.
Stone reported he continued to try and talk Kehoe down, but Kehoe charged at him with the knife. Officers again ordered Kehoe to drop the knife and it wasn’t until he was within six feet of Shabowich that Shabowich aimed low with three shots, hitting Kehoe in the leg.
Kehoe stumbled, but didn’t stop, still holding the knife. Ellenton then opened fire and dropped Kehoe with at least four shots. Police said Kehoe continued to struggle as they attempted to render First Aid.
Danvers Fire and Lyons Ambulance were on the scene within a minute of the shooting, according to the report, and Kehoe was taken to Beverly Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The report says the knife – a steak knife with a 4-inch blade – was recovered at the scene and a 12-year-old witness corroborated the officers’ account of the events out in the parking lot.
Preliminary findings from ballistics also matched up with that account and the preliminary results of an autopsy from the Chief Medical Examiner’s office confirmed Kehoe suffered five gunshot wounds.
Authorities are awaiting the results of a toxicology report to confirm if Kehoe had taken a prescription medication that is known to sometimes have serious side effects.
The report concludes, saying the officers were justified in their use of lethal force, as they were in danger of being fatally stabbed or seriously injured by Kehoe.
Blodgett’s office says, per protocol, the matter has been turned back over to the Danvers Police Department for any internal administrative review that may be deemed appropriate.