It’s Snowing in New England!!!

In a shocking, though early development, it is snowing in New England.

Based on the drivers who were flying by me and tailgating on Pawtucket Boulevard already tonight, I’m going to go ahead and predict plenty of increasing insurance bills for driver’s across the region.

There are already a lot of outages across the region. You can track those here. National Grid’s website for this is pretty great.

Below are estimated snowfalls from the National Weather Service, and you can check the forecast that goes with this map here.

Boxboro Police sent me a list of winter driving tips today, so you can download and take a look at those here.

If you hear of anything truly disasterous, for example trees into homes or vehicles, please send me a message at rmills@lowellsun.com, or call me at 978.970.4674.

There is also a snow emergency parking ban in Lowell as of 10 p.m. If you park on the street tonight and end up getting towed or ticketed, please don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Killed By a Train in Acton

An unidentified white male is dead after he was struck by an MBTA commuter train while Transit Police say he was trespassing on the tracks north of the South Acton Station.

Brenna Cobleigh, of Littleton, said there was a “screeching” sound from the train’s brakes, which is not out of the ordinary, as the train came to a controlled stop about 100 yards south of Central Street.

Police, Transit Police and Acton firefighters were called to the area of 117 Central Street for a report that a person had been struck by the train at 6:46 p.m.

The train is pictured below as it sat at the scene in darkness.

Police at the scene wouldn’t comment, but Transit Police spokeswoman Lydia Rivera sent me the following email while I was still down in Acton. I was glad I had emailed her before leaving the newsroom to go check this out.

At approximately 6:46 PM, Transit Police were notified by MBTA Railroad Operations that MBTA Train #431, heading outbound from North Station came into contact with a trespasser in the area of 117 Central Street (1.5 miles north of MBTA South Acton Station) in Acton. Transit Police, along with Acton Police, Fire & EMS responded. Unidentified white male is a fatality.

Approximately fifty passengers were evacuated from the train and a MBTA Bus Shuttle was established to transport the passengers to all remaining stations traveling outbound towards Fitchburg Station.

Cobleigh said passengers were told there had been an emergency, but got no other updates while they were kept on the train for about 90 minutes before being allowed to disembark. Cobleigh said some people sitting near her overhead conductors saying the train may have hit someone, though.

Many of the passengers walked down the tracks with a police escort to meet family members waiting in cars about 8 p.m.

There were still some passengers on the train when it continued up the tracks at 8:20 p.m. Police remained at the scene to investigate.

Pardon me. Is this your Buddha?

I’m not sure if you were aware.

We get some odd stories here sometimes.

Today we got an email from Lucy Del Ponte, 55, of Tewksbury, who asked us to help her reunite a lost and possibly stolen fiberglass head with its apparently long-lost owner. Del Ponte believes the head is a representation of Buddha.

Several months ago, Del Ponte was driving home on Route 38, when she spotted the fiberglass head pictured below.

“I was coming home and on top of a fire hydrant across from Dracut Appliance in Tewksbury was this head,” Del Ponte told me. “I said ‘you know, that doesn’t belong there.'”

Del Ponte initially feared the head could be a stolen religious item, possibly swiped from a temple. Co-workers have since told her that they doubt that very much, saying it appears the hollow, fiberglass head is more likely a former decoration in a restaurant.

Co-workers told her they believe the figure is a representation of Buddha’s head.

“But how can I drive around to all the Chinese restaurants in town and say ‘is this yours,'” Del Ponte asked.

She isn’t sure if the head was once attached to a larger statue. There appears to be no damage at the bottom of the figure’s neck to make it seem as it if it was broken off of anything else.

She presumes the head was stolen by a youthful prankster, or two.

“Who would put it on top of a fire hydrant on the side of Route 38 but a kid,” she asked.

Del Ponte called Lowell Police, but says they laughed. Tewksbury Police said that no one reported a stolen head. Both departments declined to store the head in case someone showed up looking for it.

Del Ponte said she put a post on Craigslist, but got no responses.

Co-workers have gotten used to Del Ponte keeping the head in her office, and have suggested she keep it as a conversation piece.

“I can’t do that if it belongs to someone,” she said. “I’d really like it to go back home even if it belongs to a restaurant and there isn’t come temple looking for their lost god.”

So if you just happen to be missing your head, give Del Ponte a call. She can be reached at 978.455.5002.

11-year-old Sexually Assaulted in Belvidere

If you know a roughly 30-year-old white male who drives a white, 4-door sedan with silver rims and wears black Reebok sneakers, you might want to think about calling police.

That is the description of a man who is accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy as the boy walked home from school in Belvidere this afternoon about 2:44 p.m.

The boy told police he was walking home from school when he was approached from behind on Glenwood Street near Ridge Road, by a man who grabbed his genitals.

Police said the boy told officers he began screaming, which prompted the man to get into a white 4-door sedan with silver rims and flee outbound on Glenwood Street toward Clark Road and Tewksbury.

The boy then ran home and told his father, who called police. Police canvassed the area but found nothing.

The man was described as a white male, in his 30’s. He wore a black and yellow, striped polo shirt, and black Reebok sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call Lowell police at 978-937-3200 or Crimestoppers at 978-459-TIPS (8477). Information can also be sent to police via Text-a-Tip, by texting TIP411 (847411) with the subject “LPDTIP.”

Tipsters can remain anonymous, but can receive up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Officer-Involved Shooting Death

UPDATE: I put an update with my reporting from Sunday night at the end of this entry. I also added an update with Monday’s reporting at the end.

I guess I’ll start with what I knew first. I was sitting on my porch last night a little after 3:30 a.m., when I heard sirens. Soon a car went flying up Bridge Street at a very high speed. Two or three seconds behind it were several police cruisers.

I could tell it was probably a chase because I very rarely hear police use their sirens that much at that hour. The cruisers who sped up Bridge Street never laid off their sirens for even a second.

This morning I learned police had chased a 21-year-old Dracut man from Lowell to Pelham, N.H., where the 21-year-old was fatally shot by multiple officers. That man, Alberto Pagan, was a security guard at Lowell General Hospital, and the father of a 4-year-old girl.

The story began in Lowell, where Deputy Superintendent Arthur Ryan tells me police got a 911 call reporting a man assaulting a woman at Andover and High streets about 3:30 a.m.

An officer went off at that location and found the alleged victim of the assault, but not her alleged attacker. The officer determined the incident was domestic in nature, and soon confronted Alberto Pagan, 21, of Dracut, at an undisclosed location in Lowell.

Pagan fled, according to Ryan. That is all Ryan could comment on.

That is when I heard the chase making its way up Route 38.

From there, Jeffrey Strelzin, senior assistant New Hampshire attorney general, tells us the chase continued on Route 38. Somewhere between Lowell and Pelham police used spiked sticks to flatten the tires on Pagan’s sedan. Pagan came to a stop on Route 38.

Strelzin said Pagan emerged from his car with a handgun, and remained on Route 38 for over and hour while police tried to convince him to drop his weapon and surrender.

“Police tried to negotiate with him to get him to surrender peacefully, but they were unsuccessful,” Strelzin said. “He ended up getting back into his car and drove off Route 38 onto Hobbs Road.”

The tires on Pagan’s sedan were shredded, so he wasn’t going very fast when an unmarked police cruiser on Hobbs Road rammed head-on into Pagan’s car to force the vehicle to stop in front of 14 Hobbs Road, Strelzin said.

Pagan emerged from his car still armed, then turned and walked toward a group of police from several departments who demanded that he drop the gun, according to Strelzin.

“He would not drop the handgun, and as he approached those officers, those officers fired, and they shot and killed him,” Strelzin said. “Several officers from several different agencies fired their weapons.”

Stelzin did not say whether Pagan raised or attempted to fire his gun. Ballistics evidence will determine for sure if Pagan fired, and which officers fired at Pagan, and which officers’ bullets struck Pagan. An autopsy being conducted on Sunday will determine Pagan’s cause of death.

LGH released a statement tonight saying Pagan was a security guard there for the past 2 1/2 years.

“We wish to extend our deepest condolences to Alberto’s family, many friends and co-workers,” the hospital said in a prepared statement.

Paul Jean, a hospital spokesman, said LGH security guards do not carry guns, and that Pagan would not have had the gun due to his job.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is investigating the death and the actions of the officers involved. Strelzin is leading the investigation, and he has been around for years and handled many other major investigations.

Deputy Ryan told me one officer from Lowell is on paid administrative leave pending the investigation into the death. That is standard procedure, not discipline. Such leave is also meant to help the officer recover from the emotional side of being forced to use that level of force.

In 10 years on this job, I still haven’t met a cop who’s ever wanted to shoot someone.

That is what I reported in Sunday’s paper. About 30 minutes after deadline, my efforts to reach Pagan’s family led his brother to call me.

About 45 minutes ago is when I learned Pagan was a father.

“He loved his daughter very very very very much,” Pagan’s brother told me.

Pagan grew up in Lowell, but he dropped out of Lowell High School so he could work to provide for his daughter. He later earned his GED.

Lately, Pagan had been working the overnight shift, 11 to 7 at LGH, and picking up extra shifts whenever he could.

“He was a very hard-working man,” his brother said. “When he had a daughter so young, he was all about making sure she was all set for her life.”

“He did everything for his daughter.”

Pagan’s brother and a friend who contacted me through Facebook both told me Pagan was funny. He was also a guy who would get calls from his friends when they needed someone, because they knew he would always be there to listen.

“He was always there when you needed a shoulder to cry on,” his brother said. “I miss him.”

Pagan loved football, and would go to his grandmother’s house most Sundays to have dinner, visit family, and watch some football games.

Pagan’s brother last spoke to Pagan Friday night about 6 p.m. Pagan had the night off.

“He was allright. I talked to him and he was good.”

Pagan had split up with his daughter’s mother recently, and that woman moved from their apartment and moved back in with her family. She and Pagan split time with their daughter.

Pagan’s extended family and friends had gathered together Saturday night. They’re upset police couldn’t have used less lethal means to take Pagan into custody, and upset about a report from a neighbor of the crime scene who contradicted the account of events released by police so far.

That neighbor told the family it appeared Pagan was moving away from police, not toward them, when he was shot. I have not been able to confirm that account, though I will certainly attempt to on Sunday.

“Why did they have to kill him when there’s so many other methods to put him down,” his brother asked me. “Today they have rubber bullets, they have Tasers, why did they have to shoot him when we heard he was running away?”

I don’t know if rubber bullets, Tasers or less than lethal force was an option, but I’ll be asking Strelzin about that next time I talk to him. Were those options available at the scene? Were they practical? Or could they just make Pagan shoot if they didn’t fully incapacitate him?

The family plans to setup a memorial for Pagan at the scene on Sunday. I’ve asked them for a picture of Pagan.

“He was  a confused young kid who was drinking, upset, and didn’t know what to and they put a bullet in him,” said Pagan’s aunt, Marybeth Lebron.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is in charge of the investigation, and we’ll be checking with them on Sunday for any updates on the status of that. In all my experience on this job police have always hated it when they’re forced to use deadly force.

They also rarely have the benefit of knowing what someone’s personality is like when they’re confronted by a situation in which a guy with a gun could kill them. A lot of cops have daughter’s too.

Pagan had a criminal history, but from what I’ve found in our archives it was minor. Arrests for trespassing, underage drinking, and one count of domestic assault and battery. I have no idea if those charges led to convictions, though.

I’ll continue to report both sides of this story, and to say prayers not just for Pagan’s family and daughter, but for the officers who were involved as well.

UPDATE: 

Continue reading

“Keep the kids safe. Just keep the kids safe. Do your job. Keep the kids safe.”

By Robert Mills
rmills@lowellsun.com
WESTFORD — The boy was met at the door by the smiling face of a freshman girl, working, as part of her studies, as a hostess for the restaurant and other student-run businesses at Nashoba Valley Technical High School.

The girl greeted the boy, asked where he was going, and received no answer. The boy silently walked down a hallway with an object that put the girl on edge.

“She didn’t know if it was a gun or a long pole, but she didn’t like the way he looked,” said Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz.

The next four minutes would see police speeding toward the school, administrators scrambling, and dozens of students watching as their assistant principal faced off with what appeared to be a teen boy with a gun.

When the boy headed down the hall, the girl at the door immediately told an upperclassman and culinary instructor Steve Whiting.

Whiting notified Principal Denise Pigeon and Klimkiewicz, who was having lunch with Jim Campanini, editor of The Sun, and George Ramirez, executive vice president of MassDevelopment in the school’s restaurant, run by culinary arts students. Campanini and Ramirez were at the school to film Nashoba Talks, a monthly show prepared with help from students in the TV and Media Production program.

Klimkiewicz stood, told her guests she had to attend to something, and, still poised, walked away. Guests in the restaurant continued to eat lunch, unalarmed.

Westford police got a 911 call from the school at 11:48 a.m. yesterday, according to Capt. Walter Shea. Officers were told an “unwanted person” was inside the school. Moments later, as they were en route, officers were told that person was possibly armed.

The boy, carrying a pellet gun that closely resembled an assault rifle, had by then covered most of the roughly 90 feet of hallway leading to the school’s cafeteria, where about 150 students were eating.

“Ms. Pigeon came yelling to me that we had a situation,” said Assistant Principal Matthew Ricard. “She had already cleared the serving-line area out and said a young man was coming down the hallway.”

Pigeon ran to an office to place the school in lockdown and monitor video surveillance to be sure no one else was inside building.

“Every teacher who saw kids in the corridor just ushered them into a room and locked the door,” Klimkiewicz said.

Ricard saw the young man approaching the cafeteria, which was still not fully evacuated.

“I closed the café doors and tried not to let him into the café, but he did make his way in,” Ricard said. “I saw that he had a weapon in his hands.”

The young man pointed a gun in Ricard’s direction.

From left, Principal Denise Pigeon, Assistant Principal Matthew Ricard, Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz, and Police Chief Thomas McEnaney.

Ricard was later asked what went through his head.

“Keep the kids safe. Just keep the kids safe. Do your job. Keep the kids safe,” Ricard said he was thinking.

The boy soon lowered the gun, and Ricard pinned the boy and the gun against a wall as four other teachers ran to help.

“He struggled,” Ricard said. “He didn’t say a word.”

There were still some students left in the cafeteria.

“They were frightened,” Klimkiewicz said.

Matthew Kamfonik and Mike Robichaud, teachers in the auto-body program, ran from a nearby teacher’s lounge to help, as did academic teachers Rob Beaudette and James Creed, who were working as lunch monitors.

Together with Ricard they pried the gun from the hands of the boy, and Ricard pinned the boy to the ground using an “arm bar” technique teachers are taught during annual restraint training.

Not even four minutes had passed.

“It all happened almost at once,” Klimkiewicz said.

Westford police were inside the school at 11:52 p.m., four minutes after they had been called.

They took the boy into custody without further incident. They determined the rifle was a pellet gun.

“When you look at this weapon it looks like an assault-type weapon,” said Westford Police Chief Thomas McEnaney. “It doesn’t look like a toy.”

A photograph of the gun that was provided by Westford Police.

Police soon identified the boy as a 16-year-old sophomore at the school who had been suspended last week due to what was described as an “unrelated” issue that did not involve weapons. The boy has been at the school for about a year.

Klimkiewicz and police declined to elaborate on the reason for the boy’s suspension, or to identify him in any other way since he is a juvenile facing criminal charges.

Police declined to speculate on his motive or what he may have been trying to do.

“He is not known to us,” McEnaney said when asked if the boy had a criminal record.

The boy was being held in an undisclosed juvenile detention facility last night. He will be arraigned today in Lowell Juvenile Court on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, carrying a dangerous weapon on school property, illegal possession of a BB gun, and disrupting a school assembly, McEnaney said.

Police searched the school to ensure there were no other threats, lifted the lockdown and sent students home on buses that were already waiting outside. Police searched the school a second time after students had been released.

Today, Klimkiewicz said, counselors will be available for students, staff and parents who have questions or concerns.

Klimkiewicz said she wishes the incident did not occur, but praised her staff and the freshman hostess for the speed with which they reacted. She said the student’s fast action kept the boy from moving further through the school.

“I think that says something about the maturity level of that young girl,” Klimkiewicz said.

McEnaney too praised the school staff, and Ricard in particular.

“He put himself in front of this individual who was carrying a weapon, and between him and the students,” McEnaney said. “He took matters into his own hands and actually disarmed this individual. For that I am very grateful.”

“I acted the way I was trained to act,” Ricard said.

Staff writer Sarah Favot contributed to this report.

New Home!

I’m so mainstream now!

This is the new site of the blog, on The Sun’s main URL. We also have new blogging software so please bear with me if I work out some kinks in how I do all this now.

The good news is that tonight has been slow, so I’m not leaping directly into the fire.

If you have the blog RSS’ed or bookmarked or something, please update your stuff. If you don’t have the blog bookmarked or RSS’ed, what the heck is wrong with you?