Suicidal corrections officer arraigned in police chase

By Jack Minch Sentinel & Enterprise

LEOMINSTER, Mass. — A police officer had Matthew S. Strong in his gun sights during a protracted chase Monday, according to Leominster District Court records.

Strong had threatened to kill himself, so police were trying to catch up to him to make sure he did not hurt himself, but court records show he would not obey orders and at one point drove his car toward an oncoming police car.

Strong was arraigned in court Tuesday on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, failing to stop for police, driving an uninsured and unregistered motor vehicle, and a number-plate violation.

He was released on the promise he will return for another court hearing Feb. 23.

Strong is a corrections officer at the Shirley prison complex and has been having trouble dealing with his grandmother’s death in December, according to court records.

He texted a friend that he planned to kill himself, court records say. He also texted a picture of a handgun.

Police went to his home at 47 Berrington Road, but he was not there, so they used cell-tower signals for his cellphone to determine his position.

Officer Richard Shea spotted him in the driveway at 13 Bel Air Heights, but Strong drove away, saying, "I’m good, man, I’m good," despite orders to stay put.

More officers stopped Strong about 200 feet away.

He got out of the Toyota Camry he was driving but kept one hand in his pocket while talking on the cellphone, according to court documents.

"Every once in a while, he would tell us he’s all set then go back to his cellphone conversation," Sgt. Richard Kinney said in court records. "He was starting to fidget around and appeared to be under mental stress."

Shea stood behind a thick tree and prepared to shoot Strong if he pulled a gun out of his pocket.

Strong got back in the car and drove away with police in pursuit.

He drove toward Sgt. Andrew J. Dupuis, who was approaching in a police car "in what I perceived as an attempt to ram my cruiser," Dupuis said in court documents.

Dupuis swerved out of the way, and Strong drove into the town of Sterling, and police broke off the chase at Clinton.

The cellphone later indicated he returned to Leominster.

Police found the car empty in the Wildwood condominium complex on Sycamore Drive.

Strong called a friend and said he would meet them at the Walmart parking lot on Jungle Road.

When police found and arrested him near the Tractor Supply Co., next to Walmart, about 8:15 p.m., Strong was crying and appeared more confused than he had earlier in the day.

It turned out the gun was locked in a gun safe at home, court records say.

Copyright 2012 Sentinel & Enterprise

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