Conclusion of State Police Officer Involved Fatal Shooting
On Friday, September 29th, District Attorney Shugrue held a press conference to announce the results of the investigation into the September 9th, State Police Officer involved shooting which resulted in the death of Phillip Henault (145 Richmond Road, 9/2/1959). The incident took place at 145 Richmond Road, Hancock Massachusetts at approximately 7:00am.
District Attorney Shugrue extended his sincerest condolences to Philip Henault’s family. District Attorney Shugrue, met with members of the family prior to the press conference. The family meeting included members of the State Police Detective Unit, First Assistant Marianne Shelvey and Director of Victim Witness Assistance, Jane Kibby-Peirce. At the meeting District Attorney Shugrue made available a summary of the investigation to date and provided the option to view the body camera worn footage.
The press conference was held prior to the medical examiner issuing the final autopsy report for Mr. Henault. District Attorney Shugrue chose to do this as the final autopsy results will have no effect on the outcome of this investigation.
District Attorney Shugrue stated, “I contemplated holding off on this press conference until the report was issued, which on average takes about three months. As this incident involved an officer, and as the final autopsy results will have no effect on the outcome of this investigation, I determined it to be more important to share the investigation and its findings in a timely manner over waiting for the final autopsy report. I believe in transparency and the sharing of information as soon as possible without jeopardizing an investigation.”
Evidence collected in the investigation included body and dash camera footage, civilian interviews ballistics reenactment and crime scene analysis. The civilian interviews included the interview of two individuals who were at a horse barn directly across from 145 Richmond Road and witnessed the incident from afar and the interview of a neighbor who heard the incident.
The entire incident was captured on the responding Trooper’s body worn camera. A portion of that footage was shown and a recording of the 911 dispatch call was played at the press conference.
During the 911 call, the caller alleged there was an individual inside the house armed with knives. Ultimately, it was determined that Philip Henault placed the 911 call. He was the individual carrying the weapons. He was not locked in a bathroom or being threatened. Investigations determined that Philip Henault cut his own wrists prior to the arrival of law enforcement.
District Attorney Shugrue’s Conclusion and Legal Analysis
At the time of the Trooper’s arrival, he was responding to a reported domestic disturbance involving two brothers, one reported to be armed with knives. Additionally, the Trooper was still of the belief there was a potential victim, Philip Henault’s brother, in the home based on the information relayed in the 911 call. Philip Henault was covered in blood when the trooper first encountered him in the garage. The Trooper was unaware of what or who he would still discover in the home, and their potential condition. There was reasonable suspicion, based upon the 911 call, that a crime had already been committed and was potentially still being committed.
Mr. Henault did not comply with the Trooper’s reasonable and legally valid attempt to stop him [Philip Henault]. Mr. Henault kept approaching the Trooper and threatened three times to kill him or someone. The Trooper issued numerous audible commands to stop that sought his compliance to ensure public and officer safety. The Trooper was required to unholster and draw his weapon at the point Mr. Henault tried to lure him into the garage when armed with two knives and covered in blood. This was reasonable and justified.
Mr. Henault continued to resist the Trooper’s commands. Despite the commands Mr. Henault continued to advance on the Trooper in a threatening manner with two knives while continually stating he was going to kill someone including, stating that he was going to kill the Trooper. This escalated as the Trooper continued to retreat, with Mr. Henault becoming more aggressive to the point where Mr. Henault increased his pace coming at the Trooper. The distance between the Trooper and Mr. Henault was then approximately 10 to 12 feet apart.
The act of coming at the Trooper with two knives threatening to kill the Trooper constitutes felony offenses.
Therefore, at the time the Trooper employed the use of his firearm, he had a duty to arrest a person known to have committed a felony, who was armed and was in process of advancing upon and attacking the Trooper. The Trooper had the right to use this force that was reasonably necessary to overcome the resistance of this person who was in the process of offending him and where he had a duty to arrest. Mr. Henault was actively using deadly force against law enforcement.
There were no other objectively reasonable means that the Trooper could have employed at the time in order to effectively protect himself, anyone that was in the home or the public. Prior to discharging his weapon, the Trooper employed and exhausted multiple attempts to de-escalate the situation. By virtue of his duties as a police officer, the Trooper did not have the option or obligation to run away from Mr. Henault. Mr. Henault posed an active threat to the Trooper and the public. The Trooper had a duty to arrest Mr. Henault who was engaged in various felonies, was armed and an active threat.
The actions of the Trooper comport with the policies of the Massachusetts State Police and with the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
District Attorney Shugrue stated, “In these circumstances, my role as District Attorney is to find and consider the facts – as established by objective and reliable evidence – and apply the relevant law. Accordingly, this report finds that the decision by the Trooper to fire his weapon at Mr. Henault under the foregoing circumstances constitute the lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others. Therefore, criminal charges are not warranted, and this investigation is closed pending official autopsy.”
Summary of Events:
On Saturday, September 9, 2023, at approximately 6:53am, a trooper from State Police Lee Barracks was dispatched to 145 Richmond Road, Hancock resulting from an emergency 911 call made from within the residence. The reporting party stated that there was a domestic assault between two brothers. The reporting party alleged that he was locked in a room to get away from the other brother who was armed with knives and waiting outside of the locked room.
A Responding Trooper and officers from the Pittsfield Police Department were dispatched to the residence. The Trooper arrived first on scene at approximately 7:04 am. He knocked on the front door of the residence and after no response he approached a garage entry door and observed an individual shutting the entry as he approached.
At approximately 7:05 the Trooper opened the garage door after observing a person attempting to close said door. The Trooper was met by a male, later identified to be Phillip Henault, armed with a large butcher’s knife in each hand. Mr. Henault made threatening statements, including, “I am gonna kill somebody, shoot me, I’ve been trying to kill myself.” The Trooper ordered Mr. Henault several times to put the knives down, which Mr. Henault refused.
The Trooper began to exit the garage. Mr. Henault pursued the Trooper stating, “Shoot me.” and “I’ll fucking kill you man.” The Trooper began backing down the front lawn and driveway. The Trooper continued to order Mr. Henault to stop. Mr. Henault continued to advance stating, “I’ll fucking kill you.” Mr. Henault then hastened his approach on the trooper and came within ten to twelve feet of the Trooper. The Trooper fired one shot, striking Mr. Henault and radioing ‘Shots Fired’. Mr. Henault fell, rolled and rose back to his feet.
Mr. Henault again pursued the trooper. The trooper continued to retreat while radioing ‘shots fired’. The trooper ordered Mr. Henault to stop and get down multiple times. Mr. Henault again began advancing toward the Trooper at a faster pace, stating ‘kill me.’ The Trooper fired a second shot, striking Mr. Henault. Mr. Henault fell to the ground then rose to his feet again and began advancing towards the trooper.
Both men reached the road. Mr. Henault then collapsed to the ground, still holding two knives. The Trooper radioed, “Party Down, I need the ambulance…I need everything.”
The Trooper then approached Mr. Henault who was moaning. He ordered Mr. Henault to drop the knives and ultimately was able to kick the knives out of Mr. Henault’s grasp. The Trooper then began life saving measures, using medical gear for his own personal protection before running back to his cruiser to retrieve a medical bag and defibrillator.
At approximately 7:12 the first officer from the Pittsfield Police Department arrived and at 7:13 multiple other Pittsfield Police cruisers arrived on the scene. The Trooper advised officers that there might be a man in the house that is cut and locked in a room. The Trooper then began CPR as a Pittsfield Police Officer applied pressure on the wounds.
At 7:16 EMS arrived and took over medical aid. After approximately twenty minutes of providing care, County Ambulance contacted Dr. Michael at Berkshire Medical Center who pronounced the death of Phillip Henault.
Ultimately, the Trooper retreated approximately 200 feet from initially encounter Mr. Henault in the garage. From the moment the Trooper encountered Mr. Henault in the garage to Mr. Henault’s final collapse on the road was approximately one minute and twenty seconds.