An unidentified 23-year-old man faces numerous criminal charges in an April 17 charged incident that won two police officers town-wide recognition for their display of level-headedness.
The two officers who were parked in separate cars at 221 Groton Road just before 3 a.m. witnessed a vehicle drive past them with a women hanging out of the passenger window, screaming for help.
As recorded in a memo by Westford Police Capt. Mark Chambers, the officers gave pursuit with sirens and lights flashing, catching the vehicle when it crashed into a tree further west on Groton Road. The male driver exited the car screaming for the police officers to shoot him and claiming that he had a firearm in his possession.
But the officers, Ian McEnaney and Greg Burns, noticed no bulges in the man’s clothing indicating there was no weapon. The 27-year-old female, had fallen to the ground while running to the safety of the police officers. She was crying and shaken. But she was none-the-less able to confirm to McEnaney that the man did not have a firearm and was in the middle of a mental health crisis.
The man threatened the officers with a large piece of wood he found on the scene, but then dropped it. At this point, McEnaney tackled the man to the ground with Burns assisting. They were able to handcuff the driver and transport him to Lowell General Hospital.
He was charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to stop for police, marked lanes violation, assault with a dangerous weapon, resisting arrest, kidnapping, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct.
The incident is being treated as an act of domestic violence, according to Police Capt. Victor Neal.
“With that no names will be released per Massachusetts General Law Chapter 41, Section 97D,” he stated.
Chambers credited mental health crisis training as the foundation that gave McEnaney and Burns the presence of mind to avoid using their firearms.
“In some other departments this could have ended much worse and probably would have,” Chambers said. “But it’s a credit to the training, their patience, their fortitude as police officers here in Westford, that we do go the extra mile.”
Added Neal, “all officers are trained in the police academy. Also, at least once a year all review the policy regarding “handling the mentally ill” during roll call for one week.” Neal said police department members receive in service training on occasion, as well as the use of force training twice a year.
The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security displays a graphic on its website layering threat perception categories from strategic to lethal and providing public safety officials with types of responses. An assault with the threat of bodily harm can lead to deadly force.
But McEnaney, the son of Westford Police Chief Thomas McEnaney, and Burns, resolved the Groton Road incident peacefully.
They arranged for the female passenger to be taken home, Neal said.