CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - A standoff between an armed suspect and police in downtown Chicopee ended with a state trooper wounded and the suspect dead, but the situation could have been far worse, the city's mayor says.
Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette and law enforcement officials held a news conference Friday morning in the aftermath of the standoff near the corner of West and Center Streets.
During the standoff, Trooper John Vasquez was shot in the hand and leg. He was taken to Baystate Medical Center and is expected to survive. The suspect, identified by state police as 41 year-old Carlos Laguer of Springfield, fired several other shots from what witnesses say was an automatic weapon. After exchanging gunfire with police, he retreated inside a multi-family house at 102 West Street. He was later found dead on the first floor.
The area of the standoff, West and Center streets, is a very busy area- especially during the early morning hours. The house where the suspect died is right across the street from the busy Shell gas station, which also has a Dunkin' Donuts inside. While shots were being fired, there was a tanker truck at that station, and many customers outside pumping gas and inside the building. The building itself was hit by gunfire.
Bissonnette said that it was particularly fortunate that nothing happened to the tanker.
"This could have been Armageddon, but it wasn't," Bissonnette said. "This could have been a disaster of incredible proportions. There were many students in harm's way, many pedestrians and customers at the convenience store."
Among the vehicles and pedestrians in the area at the time, was a school bus. While the bus was originally believed to have been carrying special-needs children, State Police spokesperson David Procopio said that the only person aboard at the time was the driver.
During the standoff itself, the mayor said an eight year old boy had been temporarily taken hostage, but he was released safely. A woman who was inside the house was also unharmed.
Though the suspect has died, police continue to search for clues around the house and the gas station. While the suspect had opened fire, several cars and buildings were hit.