Springfield, Massachusetts has been suffering recently from a spike in violent crime; most of it gang and drug-related. That’s not an easy environment to live in, or work in. This is especially so for police officers that are assigned to violent crime units. These units can be either plainclothes or uniformed, and either way it is difficult and often highly dangerous work.
This reality was put on full display last Saturday, April 30, when a prison inmate held at Massachusetts Correctional Institute/Shirley escaped, and headed to Springfield to reportedly avenge the recent, non-fatal shooting of his mother on April 23. No arrests have been made in that shooting. MCI/Shirley is a minimum-security state prison. The convict, Tamik Kirkland, 25 and originally from Springfield, reportedly made his way to a barbershop on State Street, where he shot two men, a barber and a customer. The customer was killed in that shooting, and the barber critically wounded. Police have not yet released the names of either man. After the shooting on State Street, Kirkland allegedly fled to a Cambridge Street residence, where he opened fire on police from the trunk of a car where he was hiding. At a press conference held outside Springfield Police Headquarters late Saturday afternoon, Springfield Police Commissioner William J. Fitchet. Fitchet said that after the State Street shooting, Kirkland fled up Montrose Street on foot. Based on intelligence that police had about Kirkland, they sped to a duplex that they suspected that Kirkland had ties to, and where believed that he would run for assistance. Special police units watched a silver sedan back into the driveway at that location, and saw Kirkland jump into the trunk. As the car tried to exit the driveway, police surrounded it, pulling a female driver from the car.
Fitchet said that before police were able to pull the female from the car, “The trunk had been popped the suspect (emerged from the trunk) and started shooting It happened over a matter of seconds.” A Springfield police officer, Raul Gonzalez, a 15-year veteran of the force, was hit with gunfire in the chest, as was an unnamed Massachusetts State Police trooper. The only reason these officers were not killed or not critically wounded is because each of them was wearing a Kevlar vest. Both officers returned fire on Kirkland, shooting him several times. Kirkland is in serious condition but is reportedly recovering from his wounds. The back-to-back shootings prompted an immediate and massive police response – due to both officers being down and because Kirkland was already being hunted by a fugitive task force.
Immediately after the shooting, police were even more shocked to discover a 6 month-old baby in in the back seat of the vehicle. The infant was unharmed. Police refused to release the driver’s name or her relationship to Kirkland, if any. Since Kirkland was in the trunk and could not have harmed the baby, it is a reasonable assumption that the female driver was known to Kirkland and was voluntarily assisting him in his escape. Translation without elocution: A real dirt bag. Kirkland, prior to his escape from MCI/Shirley, was serving time for Massachusetts gun & firearm offenses and Massachusetts drug charges.
This is all pretty scary stuff, and I wanted to write about it here for one reason: Even though, as a Boston criminal defense attorney I am on the opposite side of the courtroom aisle from police, I know that the work that many of them do is very dangerous, and the work that officers do in gang units, organized crime units and drug units, is extremely admirable. These types of officers are placed in far more dangerous positions than the average patrol officer in most police departments, and I want to say that I admire them for their work. While, as a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, I utilize every procedure and legal talent I have to provide the best legal defense possible, I nonetheless admire these officers. And one more thing: I’m grateful to them. Because whether I’m on the opposite side of a case with them or not, they make my life, and the lives of the people I care about, safer. So here’s to them.