EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 24, 2013

Lawrence officer feared for his life while wrestling armed suspect

Police nab three and recover loaded handgun after home invasion

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — LAWRENCE — Lawrence police officer Patrick Noonan said he feared for his life early yesterday when a suspect he had pinned on the ground attempted to pull something out of his pocket while warning “You’re done when I get up, you’re done,”

Noonan had good reason to feel afraid. The man he wrestled to the ground had a loaded gun in his pocket.

The suspect — later identified as Eric Garcia — was one of three city men that police later arrested in connection with an armed home invasion at 233 Jackson St. Residents told police the men tried to break in through a porch window shortly after 3:30 a.m. and that one of the intruders pointed a gun into their first floor apartment.

Soon after police arrived, they noticed three men on a sidewalk near the reported home invasion. Noonan said he drew his gun and ordered Garcia to take his hand out of his pocket and get on the ground. The three men fled. Noonan chased after Garcia and tackled him to the ground.

“Subject’s actions were highly volatile,” Noonan later recalled in his arrest report, noting that Garcia was “kicking and thrashing” while uttering threatening remarks.

“Due to the nature of the call with a description of a gun being shown I felt the safety of my life was in danger and didn’t know what Garcia was reaching for in his pocket,” Noonan wrote in his report.

“I ordered Garcia to stop resisting and delivered several closed fisted blows to the right side of his face and pinned down his right hand in his pocket with my knee so he could not pull it out,” the officer said.

As Garcia thrashed his body around and attempted to break free from Noonan’s hold, the officer said he radioed the police dispatcher for help and squirted pepper spray in Garcia’s face. Officer Keith Salach arrived soon after and helped Noon subdue the suspect, according to the police report. But Noonan said he had to use his baton to deliver “a shin rake” before they could handcuff the resistant suspect.

Then Salach noticed the handle of a gun protruding from the right front pocket of Garcia’s shorts

Noonan said he pulled out a .40 caliber Glock 22 semi automatic pistol from Garcia’s pocket. The gun was loaded with two hollow point rounds in a high capacity magazine. He noted in his report that Garcia continued to resist as the officers walked him to the police cruiser and placed him in the backseat.

Garcia, 20, of 35 Avon St., was charged with threat to commit a crime, resisting arrest, unlawful possession of ammunition, unlawful possession of large capacity firearm, possession of loaded firearm, home invasion and assault on a police officer. Police later recovered a stray hollow point bullet in Garcia’s left pocket.

Also charged were Luis Lugo, 22, and Nelson Rosario, 19, both of 46 Amesbury St.

Police Chief John J. Romero called Noonan “a very good officer” who responded well in a dangerous encounter with a fleeing suspect.

“Clearly, he was in a life and death struggle with this individual,” Romero said in an interview last night.

“The officer was absolutely correct in fearing for his life. He was responding to a report with a man with a gun and the individual he was trying to arrest was combative to the officer, continued to try take his hand out of his pocket and it was later revealed he had a loaded gun in his pocket,” the chief said.

“That weapon that police recovered is no ‘Saturday Special,’ which is a poorly-made and cheap handgun that criminals use. The Glock 22 is a military police caliber weapon used by a lot of law enforcement and military. It’s a sophisticated weapon. Thankfully for the responding officers and the victims of the home invasion, we recovered the weapon without anyone getting harmed,” he said.

Romero commended the officers “for doing a great job, apprehending three individuals who were in the process of committing a home invasion and recovering the weapon as well.”

Noonan received medical treatment for a swollen right hand, but was not seriously injured. EMTs were called to the station to check Garcia’s injuries and clear the pepper spray from his face.

Meanwhile, police are investigating reports that three suspects they arrested had been terrorizing the neighborhood in previous incidents.

Victims interviewed by police said the men “have been in the area all week robbing people and shooting guns off in the street at night,” Noonan wrote in his report.

Officers Timothy Yerian and Paul Plantamura and Sgt. Pomerleau with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit captured Rosario. The three officers, along with Lawrence police Sgt. Joseph Beaulieu arrested Lugo.