Does This Guy Look Familiar?

Westford Police are asking the public to help them identify a man who held up the Eastern Bank at 203 Littleton Road (Route 110) today about 1:30 p.m.

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Deputy Chief Walter Shea told me the man pictured above walked into the bank and demanded cash from a teller while claiming to have a weapon.
He is described as a black male, about 18-years-old, 5 feet, 8 inches tall. He fled toward Route 110.
Anyone with information on this man’s identity is asked to call Westford Police at 978.692.2161.

Really Bad Idea

I was knee deep in another story tonight so I only had a little time to address this, but at about about 11 p.m., police tried to stop a car for running a stop sign near Bridge Street and VFW Highway.
They lit up the driver near Saints Medical Center after following the car over the Hunts Falls Bridge, and the driver took off, reaching an estimated 60 mph on East Merrimack Street.
I heard the officers say they were breaking off the chase since it was approaching downtown at dangerous speeds, but a second later they reported the fleeing driver crashed and fled on foot.

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He apparently jumped the retaining wall that separates the parking lot from the Concord River behind the Middlesex Community College Cyber Cafe, and then fled under the bridge carrying East Merrimack Street over the river.
Within minutes, though, police reported he was trapped on the riverbank and begging for help in the freezing cold, so the entire situation turned from chase to rescue.
He is pictured huddled in the snow as an EMT from Trinity Ambulance evaluates him. Officer Jeff Halloran and the EMT went down the ladder to help him after firefighters responded and got a ladder down to the riverbank and secured.

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He was taken to the hospital to be treated, and had not been booked yet tonight, so I don’t have his name and other information. I’ll try to get that tonight.
I think he ought to be feeling pretty lucky that officers didn’t lose him when he jumped down to the river, or give up on the chase, and that city police are willing so quickly go from pursuing to saving.
Here’s some video of him coming up to safety.

Officer Down

I’m going to let this stand without any commentary.
By Robert Mills
rmills@lowellsun.com
WOBURN — The man who allegedly killed a veteran Woburn police officer during a wild gunbattle following a robbery Sunday night was a career criminal with a lifelong history of robbery, escape and violence against law enforcement.
Domenic Cinelli, 57, of Woburn, was paroled from state prison last year.
Authorities say Cinelli shot Officer John “Jack” Maguire, 60, of Wilmington, four times in the chest during an exchange of gunfire on Washington Street in Woburn at about 8:45 p.m. Sunday. Cinelli was also killed.
Two alleged accomplices, Scott Hanwright, 19, and Kevin Dingwell, 51, both of Wakefield, have also been charged.
Hanwright is being held without bail after he was arraigned in Woburn District Court yesterday on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery. Dingwell was ordered held on $1,000 cash bail as an accessory after the fact.
Maguire, a 34-year veteran of the Woburn Police Department, was one of several officers who responded to a robbery at Kohl’s department store on Washington Street in Woburn near interstates 95 and 93, according to District Attorney Gerard Leone’s Office.
Maguire was chasing Cinelli and Hanwright on foot when the gunfire began.
“We do not have shootings in Woburn,” said Woburn Police Chief Philip Mahoney at an emotional press conference yesterday. “It’s not that type of community, and last night Officer Maguire lost his life defending it right in the middle of Washington Street. It was almost like the Wild West between the two of them.”
Paul Sweeney, of Lowell, said he heard the incident unfold on a police scanner late Sunday night.
“I actually heard the deceased officer’s partner screaming for the Fire Department ambulance while he was pinned down by gunfire,” Sweeney said. “It was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever heard on my scanner, and I’ve been listening to police radios for over 40 years.”
Officers across the region were in mourning yesterday.
Lowell Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee said his officers worked closely with Woburn officers through the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council and through various training programs. Lavallee called Mahoney to offer his condolences.
“Our hearts are broken in law enforcement across the region,” Lavallee said. “We’re hoping justice is served against the other two defendants.”
Maguire’s wife, Desiree, his 22-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter requested privacy to grieve yesterday, and are making no comments to the press, according to Jessica Pastore, a spokeswoman for Leone.
Maguire was the son of the late Woburn Police Chief Thomas Maguire. He is the first Woburn police officer to die in the line of duty.
According to published reports and Parole Board records, Cinelli had mostly been in prison since March 1976, when he began serving time for several robberies.
In 1985, Cinelli didn’t return from a one-day furlough, and committed five more robberies while on the loose.
Among those heists was one at a jewelry store in downtown Boston in which Cinelli shot a security guard in the chest, according to published reports from the time.
A year later, Cinelli was sentenced to 20 to 25 years in prison after being convicted of charges including armed robbery and armed assault with intent to murder. Less than an hour after sentencing, though, he slit his wrist and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.
At the hospital, he pulled a fake gun on a deputy sheriff who was guarding him, stole the officer’s real handgun, and ran from the hospital still in shackles before carjacking a vehicle at gunpoint outside.
He was arrested again 11 days later, but not before committing at least one other robbery, according to published reports from the time.
In 2005, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals ordered the Parole Board to grant Cinelli an immediate hearing due to flaws in the way he had been sentenced. The board denied his request for parole in 2005, but granted him parole after another hearing in November 2008.
Timothy Dooling, acting executive director of the Parole Board, released that decision last night.
In the decision, the board wrote that though Cinelli had a history of violent crime and substance abuse that included using heroin by age 15, he had addressed his substance-abuse issues and completed numerous courses meant to assist his transition back into society. The board noted that he had not faced prison discipline since 1999.
“He appears committed to conducting his life in a positive manner,” the board’s decision states.
Cinelli was cleared for parole in February of last year, but ordered to undergo testing for drugs and alcohol, and to continue attending counseling.
“Upon learning the suspect was on parole, we immediately initiated a comprehensive and detailed review of all records and information related to Domenic Cinelli,” Dooling said. “We cannot make any additional comments at this time, other than to express our deepest sympathies to the Maguire family.”
Mahoney, Woburn’s grief-stricken police chief, singled out Wilmington police for thanks at yesterday’s press conference, saying officers from Maguire’s hometown drove his wife home from the hospital Sunday night, and then shoveled the family’s driveway on Monday.
Investigators said the robbery had been thoroughly planned, and aimed to take advantage of poor road conditions caused by the nor’easter that struck the area Sunday.
“I was with his wife last night at the hospital,” Mahoney said yesterday. “I can’t tell you how traumatic that was.”
Cinelli went into the store to steal diamond jewelry from the jewelry counter, while Hanwright served as a lookout and Dingwell waited outside as a getaway driver, according to prosecutors.

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Rest In Peace Officer Maguire.

Lowell Native Killed on Christmas Eve

I found out earlier tonight that the girl killed in a late night fire on Christmas Eve in Chelsea was a 20-year-old Lowell native who had only recently moved out of town to live with her boyfriend in Chelsea.
Crystal Lynn Blanchard was killed in the fire at 295 Spruce St., in Chelsea. The fire started Christmas Eve about 11:30 p.m.
I spoke to Crystal’s mother, Colleen McCutcheon, tonight. She said Crystal was extremely shy unless she was talking about Japanese anime. Bring up anime, and she’d talk your ear off, though.

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Crystal’s love of anime had her thinking about heading to college to study graphic design, her mother said.
“She was very serious about, and very good at drawing,” McCutcheon told me.
Crystal went to the Robinson School, the Pine Arts Magnet School, and the Greater Lowell Technical High School before graduating high school during a brief move to Florida.
She leaves behind a large family, including a younger sister and a younger brother who’s in the Army. Her father is Tim Blanchard, of Lowell.
She was rushed to the hospital but pronounced dead following a 2-alarm fire. The cause remains under investigation. A 33-year-old man who jumped out a second story window with severe burns was also left in critical condition by the blaze.
McCutcheon said that man was Crystal’s boyfriend, but he has not been identified yet. A 26-year-old woman also suffered minor injuries in the fire.
“She was a very caring person,” McCutcheon said. “She was very shy. You had to get to know her.”

Storm Resources

Instead of updating you all night long with what I learn about the storm, I thought maybe I’d just share some of my resources with all of you so you can follow this sucker yourselves if you’re interested.
I’ll also be tweeting as much as possible and updating here if possible, but I’m chasing stories on two fires in addition to the blizzard, so I’m making no promises.
I’ll be sure to put anything major here, and state police are putting out condition updates every 30 minutes, so I shouldn’t miss anything major.
For starters, here’s the snowfall predictions from the National Weather Service in Taunton.

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You can check that map further and read the blizzard warning here.
For frequently updated snowfall updates as reported by spotters, check here.
For damage reports called into the National Weather Service, check here.
To track power outages around the state, check National Grid’s website here.
I started laughing at myself as I dressed for work tonight, so in case you’re curious what a skinny reporter wears to cover a blizzard, I’m going with lightweight summer hiking socks to keep my feet from sweating, heavy wool sucks over those; boots; two pairs of thermal underwear bottoms; jeans; thermal underwear top; two T-shirts; a wool sweater; three hoodies and a winter coat; a Red Sox baseball cap to keep the snow off my glasses; with a stocking cap pulled down over it, and my hood up; fingerless gloves for taking notes, and warmer regular gloves for keeping my hands warm when not taking notes.
I think I’ve gained about 30 pounds just from clothing.
I’ve already talked to the Lowell Fire Department and the Red Cross. Extra firefighters will be working tonight, and Lowell’s Emergency Operations Center will open at midnight with a small crew.
The Red Cross is already working with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to get people and resources in place in case they need to quickly start opening shelters Monday morning.
Good luck out there tonight. I hope you’re all staying safe and warm.

Homeless The Day After Christmas

It sounds like most of the 13 residents of 73 Fourth Street were still sleeping this morning at 6:30 a.m., when a 2-alarm fire started in the second floor apartment of a two-unit building in Centralville.
Jorge Matias, 50, who lives with his wife, kids and grandkids in the building’s first floor apartment, told me he awoke to the sound of people running upstairs and smoke alarms. His family quickly got out of the house.

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Firefighters arrived to find a blaze quickly gutting the second floor. Deputy Chief Jeff Winward told me there were six residents of the second-floor apartment, including a young boy who discovered the blaze, tried to put it out and started waking people.
Matias said he lives with six other family members, including his 2-year-old granddaughter.
No one was hurt, but a pet rabbit died in the fire, Winward said. The cause appears to be accidental, but is still under investigation.

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Crews were still at the scene putting out hot spots when I left this morning as a light snow was falling.
There was a huge pile of charred clothing and other items on the sidewalk that firefighters inside the second floor had tossed out a window, and the home looked pretty well destroyed.

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Matias said his family wasn’t able to get much of any of their belongings out of the house, but he seemed very resilient at the scene. His family was keeping warm at the home of a neighbor across the street and that neighbor was making him coffee.
The Red Cross was arriving as I left, so they should be taking care of the families. I couldn’t find the family from the second-floor.

UPDATE: I should add this link, because my story for the paper contains information from Anthony Stephenson, a pretty tough 14-year-old who lived on the second floor. The kid deserves a handshake for the way he responded to this.

Highway Incident

If anyone saw the slew of police cruisers on 495 North at the Lowell Connector tonight about 10:45 p.m., it was just a call for a despondent man who had gotten out of his vehicle.
Police from Lowell, Billerica, Chelmsford and State Police all responded, though, so I’m sure it made a heck of a scene.
The situation was under control within minutes and an ambulance was on the way to get the man some treatment. I won’t be writing more than this about it, but I didn’t want anyone to drive past and think it was a major incident.