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Anthony McGrath, 16 -- Shot By Police

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PLYMOUTH -- After a predawn high-speed chase through town yesterday, two Plymouth police officers fatally shot a 16-year-old who tried to run them down with his car, authorities said.

Plymouth police said that the officers' lives were in danger and that they fired in self-defense. Plymouth County prosecutors launched an investigation into the death of Anthony W. McGrath.

His mother, Denise McGrath, questioned the actions of the officers, calling her son's shooting an unwarranted ''death sentence."

''I want to know what happened," she said, her eyes tearing. ''I want to know who killed my son for no reason at all. . . . He was my only son, and I loved him."

The encounter, according to accounts given to Plymouth police by the two officers involved, began when an officer responded shortly before 3:30 a.m. to an alarm at a liquor store on North Park Avenue and spotted a Toyota Camry speeding away.

The officer pursued the Camry several blocks on Water Street and saw the vehicle overshoot the intersection at Nelson Street and hit a stone wall.

The officer and another who had joined the chase positioned their cruisers behind the car, according to the police account. The Camry, moving in reverse, rammed one of the police cars, pushing through the gap between the two cruisers and slamming into a utility pole, the officers said.

Then, with the car facing the officers head on, the driver accelerated the Camry toward them, police said. Both officers fired at McGrath, the sole occupant of the car. He was pronounced dead at Jordan Hospital.

Both of the officers were standing outside their cruisers when they fired, police said. Plymouth police would not discuss how many shots were fired, where McGrath was hit, or how fast the car was traveling when he was shot.

''It's certainly a traumatic incident for those officers and also for the family of the 16-year-old," said Plymouth police Captain Michael Botieri.

State Police policy, which local departments such as Plymouth police are expected to follow, states that officers should not fire at a moving vehicle ''unless any occupant uses or threatens to use immediate lethal force."

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz will examine whether the two Plymouth officers adhered to this standard, said his spokeswoman, Bridget Norton Middleton. The officers, both longtime members of the force who were not identified, were placed on paid administrative leave.

The initial alarm at Richards Wine & Spirits apparently signaled a break-in attempt. The store's owner, Stephen J. Berg, said yesterday that someone had used a rock to crack the window of a side door.

Kathleen A. Killion, who lives near the shooting site, said she was awakened by the sound of sirens and gunshots.

''It was pow, pow, pow, just like fireworks would be," she said.

Killion said she heard three to five gunshots and later saw police recover two shell casings lying on the street next to one of the cruisers.

Her boyfriend, Basil Schultz, 30, said he saw one officer hand his gun to another while other officers were investigating at the scene.

''He was shaken," Schultz said. ''It's horrible. It's bad for the town, the kid, the police, and the community."

The last fatal shooting by Plymouth police occurred in September 2003, when an officer shot a mentally troubled 35-year-old named James Glidden who allegedly attacked police with a 12-inch military knife. On Nov. 25, Plymouth police shot a 73-year-old man in the hand after he allegedly pointed a rifle at them.

The slain teen's grandfather, Roy McGrath, said he thought the officers involved were ''a little free with the guns."

''He shouldn't have been shot," he said. ''He crashed. . . . They should have just dragged him out instead of shooting him."

McGrath had recently been in some trouble. While he had never been convicted, he had been charged and held in state Department of Youth Services custody awaiting trial three times last year: for a week in March, for most of April, and most recently for half of November, according to Mary Silva, a DYS official with access to McGrath's records.

Another official with access to the records said McGrath was one of three teenagers charged in October with beating up an Eagle Scout at Plymouth North High School and robbing him of $40 the scout had collected for charity.

McGrath enrolled as a sophomore at Plymouth North last fall, but had not shown up for class since October, said Plymouth School Superintendent Barry E. Haskell. He said McGrath had transferred from Sandwich, where he attended high school his freshman year.

Instead of attending school, McGrath was working for a landscaping business run by Richard J. Higgins, 42, who said yesterday he was renting a room from Denise McGrath.

''He was a hard-working kid," Higgins said. ''I didn't know if he was going to handle it, but he did very well."

Higgins also owned the car McGrath drove yesterday. Higgins said he did not know how or when McGrath took the car, but said he usually leaves the key in the ignition.

Relatives and neighbors said McGrath was a decent person who would not try to harm police.

''Anthony was a normal 16-year-old," said the teen's uncle, David Ritchie, speaking on behalf of McGrath's family. ''He was getting some help for his issues. We do not believe that he would try to hurt someone with a car. We hope that officials do a detailed and complete investigation as quickly as possible."



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