Adams Police Release Videos, Statement on ‘Wrong’ Gunpoint Reports
Police Chief Richard Tarsa on Wednesday night took issue with a newspaper account of an incident in which an Adams resident was pulled over by police, ordered to the ground at gunpoint, detained, searched and questioned.
The Adams police department had their video dash cam and rear seat cam rolling when the event occurred showing that it did not go down as had been reported.
Here is the release from the Adams Police Department sent by Officer Cunningham.
On Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 3:45 pm, officers from the Adams Police Department were dispatched to 30 North Summer Street for a report of shots fired. Upon arrival officers learned that a male party had suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Responding officers secured and stabilized the scene for responding EMS personnel. Once the scene was determined to be safe, the victim was transported to Berkshire Medical Center, in Pittsfield, where he remains in critical, but stable condition.
Prior to being transported the victim told officers that a Gage Sherman, white male, had come to his residence along with two black males. The identity of the black males was unknown to the victim. He was able to briefly describe them as a light- skinned black male, with facial hair, wearing a red baseball cap, and red sweatshirt. The second male was wearing a black sweatshirt. All three individuals were reported to have fled on foot, in an unknown direction of travel.
A shooting such as this is considered a dynamic and rapidly evolving situation. Officers must act upon and follow up on the information that is being provided to them, under developing information and circumstances. With the information provided by the victim, officers then began to canvass the immediate area, because it was believed, as reported by the victim, that all three suspects fled on foot. During the canvass, an officer observed a tan colored motor vehicle being operated from East Jordan Street and then north onto North Summer Street. The officer observed the operator to be a light- skinned, black male, with facial hair, wearing a red baseball cap and a red hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. Due to the similarity of the operator to that of the suspect description that they were provided with, the vehicle was subsequently stopped on Columbia Street at the intersection of Cook Street.
Based upon the tactics taught in the Academy, regarding how to stop a vehicle that is believed to contain an occupant that may be armed with a firearm, officers were able to quickly determine that the sole occupant, a Mr. Aaron Chappell from Adams, was not involved. Officers informed Mr. Chappell the reasons for him being stopped to which he acknowledged that he understood. Officers also apologized to Mr. Chappell for any inconveniences that were caused – again he acknowledged that he understood. Mr. Chappell was then allowed to leave and an officer was going to assist with traffic to allow him to leave.
Shortly after clearing from the motor vehicle stop, officers at the scene of the shooting were able to obtain information from a witness. The witness reported that he observed a beige colored, four door vehicle, possibly a Toyota, with a loud exhaust; pull up along the side of the building. He observed two black males, one wearing a black sweatshirt and the other wearing a red hooded sweatshirt (hood up) with a red baseball cap and a white male exit the vehicle. They then approached the back of the building. The witness reported that he did not see the suspects after that nor was he able to see the vehicle leave.
Mr. Chappell was detained as part of an investigative detention. Investigative detentions such as this (based upon reasonable suspicion) have been upheld by the MA SJC, and that the courts recognize the need for officers to briefly detain possible suspects while responding to crimes. “Proximity to crime scene”, “descriptions”, “race” (when it matches description) are all recognized as factors that contribute to reasonable suspicion. There is no definitive time limit put on investigative detentions, but the SJC has stated that officers be diligent in determining if the person detained is involved or not, and if not, they be released forthwith as the officers clearly did.
On Saturday, 27 January 2018, The Berkshire Eagle published a story regarding the motor vehicle stop that involved Mr. Chappell. The article contained what they reported to be facts as they relate to the stop and how Mr. Chappell was treated. At this time I can clearly state that not only are these alleged facts inconsistent, they are wrong.
Please allow me to explain.
The motor vehicle stop itself is considered a high risk stop. Whenever there is the belief that probable cause may exist that the operator, or a passenger, in a vehicle may be armed, dangerous, matches or has a similar description of a suspect(s) then a high risk stop is conducted. The officer is to provide clear and concise commands, in this particular case; to the operator as to what he wants them to do in order to exit the vehicle. The idea is to remove the occupant in a controlled environment while keeping his safety, the officers and that of the surrounding public in mind.
The Berkshire Eagle reported that Mr. Chappell was pulled over using a public address (PA) system.
FACT: Mr. Chappell, after the vehicle was pulled over by the officer using his cruisers emergency lights and siren, was given clear and concise verbal commands by the officer in his own voice and not aided by a public address system (PA).
The Berkshire Eagle reported that Mr. Chappell was told to lie face down on the street and that the gun was aimed, specifically, at his head.
FACT: the officer did instruct Mr. Chappell on how to exit the vehicle eventually leading to him being instructed to kneel on the ground. During this time the officer did maintain a covering position with his weapon drawn because it was a high risk stop – keep in mind that there was still an on- going investigation for suspects in a confirmed shooting. Once Mr. Chappell was in a kneeling position a second officer moved in to handcuff Mr. Chappell while the primary officer still maintains a covering position for safety reasons. A covering position is still maintained until the individual is properly searched for weapons. The officer’s weapon was not pointed at Mr. Chappell’s head but at his body. The angle of the photograph is definitely misleading. Once secured in the rear of the cruiser the officer conducts a secondary visual search of the vehicle for persons and possible weapons.
The Berkshire Eagle reported that the stop took twenty (20) minutes in duration. It was also reported that Mr. Chappell was never informed as to why he was stopped and an apology never provided.
FACT: Mr. Chappell was handcuffed and then brought back to the cruiser where he was properly searched for weapons and placed in the rear seat area. An investigative detention was then conducted to allow the officers the ability to properly conduct a further investigation into whether Mr. Chappell was involved or not. Mr. Chappell was in the cruiser for a total time of 1:40.While in the rear seat of the cruiser an officer engaged in conversation with Mr. Chappell clearly explaining that he was not being stopped because of his race, but because he matched a similar description of a possible suspect in a shooting that occurred. The officer also explained that it was easy for a person to change clothing after an incident such as a shooting. The officer further explained that he was convinced that Mr. Chappell was not involved and asked him to step out of the cruiser where he could remove the handcuffs from him. The officer also clearly apologized for any inconvenience that may have been caused. This continued conversation is consistent with the principles of transparency and procedural justice that all Massachusetts police officers have been trained in, over the past several years. Mr. Chappell acknowledged that he understood what was going on. Once allowed to leave Mr. Chappell was told that the officer was going to assist with traffic so he could safely leave the area. A time line of the vehicle stop shows that the stop was initiated at 4:02:46 pm with the officer using lights and siren. Mr. Chappell was placed inside the cruiser at 4:04:47 pm and removed from the cruiser at 4:06:27 pm. Mr. Chappell was inside the cruiser for a total of 1:40. The vehicle stop was completed at 4:07:29 pm with the entire time of the stop being 4:43.
The Berkshire Eagle specifically stated that the involved vehicle was a beige colored Toyota Celica. This was presented as knowledge that the officers had prior to the actual stop.
FACT: Upon the completion of the motor vehicle stop involving Mr. Chappell officers at the scene of the shooting learned from a witness that a beige colored four door vehicle, possibly a Toyota with a loud exhaust, was involved. The suspects arrived in the vehicle prior to the shooting and appeared to have left by the same method - Please note: that the Initial information was that they left on foot. Once the vehicle information was obtained, at 4:10 pm, a BOLO was broadcasted county wide, at 4:38 pm, by BCSC. Clearly, this information was not known prior to Mr. Chappell being stopped or, for that matter, when first observed by the officer as he drove through the area of the shooting. The information was received over 2 minutes after the stop was concluded. It was then broadcast approximately 30 minutes after the stop was concluded.
The Berkshire Eagle article has presented an appearance that the motor vehicle stop was made through racial bias and discrimination. I can assure you that it is in fact not the case. The investigation being conducted relative to the shooting was a fluid and moving one. Mr. Chappell fit the description similar to that of one of the suspects hence the reason for the stop. An officer explained to him that he was not being stopped based on his race, but because of the similarities in appearance and that it is easy for a person to change clothes. Mr. Chappell was treated with respect and given every courtesy provided including an explanation regarding the event, the stop, and what was going on. He was also clearly provided with an apology.
The Adams Police Department is providing an open and transparent account of the above stop that involved Mr. Chappell. Not only am I able to explain this to you, but also by being able to provide cruiser video and audio documentation of the stop showing that the events did not occur as portrayed by The Berkshire Eagle, or others. As you will see the officers conducted themselves in a professional manner consistent with their training. You will also see that Mr. Chappell did engage in conversation with the officers and that he acknowledged that he not only understood but was also apologized to.