Here’s what I know: If I had not gone to the pediatricians this morning my route to work would have taken me on 391 right by the incident location, right as it was occurring at 7:45 am. I am thankful I was not there, to be sure.
The whole thing could have been so much worse, and also thankfully the state trooper, Officer Vasquez, received only non life threatening injuries to his hand and leg. (Have you hugged a police officer today? If not , you should! )
According to one eyewitness who was walking home at the time, he was almost run over by a man exiting a 3 family dwelling on the corner of West and Center Streets, who yelled at the eyewitness to “Get out of my way”! The next thing that happened was another man came out of the same house shooting a semi-automatic-at the other fleeing man. However, bullets then started flying everywhere. The shooter, now identified as 41 yr old Carlos Laguer, didn’t appear to care that students were arriving at the elementary school down the street, that a bus full of special needs children was in the line of fire. (that quick thinking driver deserves a medal, not a scratch on any of those kids), that people were gassing up their cars at the Shell station across the street and in fact there was a full tanker delivering fuel in the parking lot. The Chicopee police and the staties arrived within minutes of the first 911 call.
The shooter, Laguer, was still active and the police walked right into a fusillade of bullets. I don’t think the shooter was outside at the time, witnesses report he retreated into the house but kept shooting. It appears Officer Vasquez was shot in the initial exchange. A former police officer, Wade Hamilton, who works for an oil company up the street, heard what was going on and ran to assist the fallen officer, and the other policeman. He and the other police got the wounded officer into a city police car – which was fired upon – and they got him to Baystate Medical Center, stat.
Mr Hamilton spoke with our local news station WWLP TV22, shortly after the incident was over and was visibly shaken and upset. The shooter had apparently taken hostages on the first floor of the 3 family house. A woman and a small boy. Several people have said that this was the shooters wife and son, but I have not heard that was confirmed yet. The woman either got away or was released by the gunman before the boy. Mr Hamilton recounted to the reporter his thoughts about seeing that little boy in his underwear tip toeing out of the house and across the street just as SWAT was getting ready to move. He was, as I said, quite shaken up. When the police moved in they found Laguer dead of a probably self inflicted gunshot wound, on the first floor of the house. They also smelled gas. Apparently one or more of the bullets had punctured the gas line in the house. All was safely repaired. No further injuries have been reported. More than one weapon was found in the house.
The FBI, ATF, state, and local authorities have been on scene and investigating all day, and the investigation continues tonight. State police and the assistant DA have said that Laguer had a long criminal history and is definitely not unknown to law enforcement. (no surprises there) Further, Laguer had a restraining order against him by the woman who fled the apartment. She left Springfield and moved to Chicopee to get out of a domestic violence situation, and had a new boyfriend. (probably that guy who Laguer was shooting at to start with)
What can we learn from this? It could have been so much worse. Both the first responders and several ordinary citizens went above and beyond to assure people’s safety. The schools, the city and the state proved their emergency response plans work well, and inter-agency cooperation is also alive and well. Bravo Chicopee! Well Done!
Related Articles and Links to Video: The two videos are particularly compelling, by the way.