Date Published:  Wed, 2/21/2007

BARNSTABLE – What was supposed to be a routine transport of four prisoners to Barnstable District Court for arraignment spilled into the village streets yesterday morning and ended with a 22-year-old Centerville man being critically wounded by a Barnstable police officer.

Anthony Roberts was in critical but stable condition last night in a Boston hospital, shot once in the side of the chest after a police chase through Barnstable Village.

Two police officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Barnstable police would not name the officers yesterday but said department policy requires any officer who discharges a firearm to be put on leave. Witnesses said only one shot was fired.

Because Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe witnessed yesterday’s shooting on the way to get his cup of morning coffee, he has passed the investigation on to Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz.

Both Cruz and O’Keefe declined to divulge details of the investigation yesterday other than to say it appeared the officer’s actions were justified.

The incident began at about 8:40 a.m. when Roberts arrived at the courthouse from the Barnstable police station in a police van with three other prisoners. Roberts, who police said has a long criminal history, was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday on charges of receiving stolen property, leaving the scene of property damage and forgery.

But when a police officer opened the back door of the van to escort the prisoners into the building, Roberts assaulted the officer and took off running toward Route 6A, investigators said.

Although Roberts, like the other prisoners, was handcuffed behind his back, he was able to slip one hand through the cuffs, according to police interviews with the other prisoners.

He ran down the hill from the courthouse and across Route 6A to the parking lot of Barnstable General Store, where he accosted Frederick O’Regan, president of the Yarmouth-based International Fund for Animal Welfare. O’Regan, who declined to comment yesterday, had just parked his green 1999 Honda Accord in the store’s parking lot.

Roberts allegedly forced O’Regan, 60, out of his car, just as the two Barnstable police officers who had delivered him to court reached the parking lot.

The officers ordered Roberts to get out of the car ”numerous times,” Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald said at a press conference yesterday afternoon. Roberts ignored them as he tried to get the standard-shift car into gear and drive it out of the lot.

The police officers then yelled to Cape Cod Times van driver Richard ”Sonny” Ruggiero to pull his vehicle behind Roberts’ would-be escape car and block it.

Roberts struggled to put the car in reverse as the officers battered the car windows with their batons. He then backed the car into the newspaper delivery van, pushing the van back far enough to be able to drive around it.

An officer grabbed Roberts through the Honda’s window but was not able to hold on as the car sped forward, barreling over a row of bushes, then bolting out on Route 6A in the direction of the Barnstable Superior Courthouse driveway.

One officer then fired his .40-caliber gun through the Honda’s shattered window, hitting Roberts’ left side with a single shot. The car then crashed into the concrete wall at the base of the courthouse.

Barnstable police and court officers ran over to Roberts, ”who was still attempting to flee on foot,” MacDonald said.

”They were able to restrain Roberts, render first aid until the arrival of fire department rescue.”

Roberts was taken to Cape Cod Hospital then flown to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where he underwent surgery and is under police guard.

One officer was evaluated at Cape Cod Hospital for injuries sustained during the struggle with Roberts.

”Witnesses have described Anthony Roberts as driving like a maniac and thought that he was attempting to run the police officers over,” MacDonald said.

At Barnstable General Store yesterday, people said they had heard a loud bang like a gunshot and police yelling at each other to smash the Accord’s windows.

”We just went over and saw the car just crashing into the wall,” store employee Megan Burke, 24, of Barnstable, said in between serving up haddock soup and walnut-chicken salad sandwiches.

Roberts and Burke were schoolmates at Barnstable High School and she remembered him as a nice guy who nonetheless was prone to getting into trouble.

Roberts’ attorney, J. Drew Segadelli of Falmouth, said his client, who has a Cambridge as well as a Centerville address, had always made previous court dates and presented himself well in front of a judge.

Segadelli could not account for why Roberts tried to run.

”The significance of the present charges are not of a nature that an individual would get himself shot over them,” said Segadelli, who still questioned how Roberts was able to escape.

Cruz said he will prosecute Roberts separately for the slew of charges stemming from the attempted escape, in addition to his already pending charges. He now faces at least a half-dozen more, including carjacking, assault with a dangerous weapon and several motor vehicle violations, Cruz said.

Also, investigators said, Roberts will likely be charged in connection to a rash of recent home and car burglaries in Barnstable and Dennis. He is also implicated in a drug trafficking case in Plymouth, investigators said.

Sean Gonsalves can be reached at Patrick Cassidy

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(Published: February 21, 2007)

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