The office of Worcester County District Attorney Joe Early, Jr. released a report on Friday, September 17, that concludes that Worcester Police officer Paul Cyr’s use of deadly force was appropriate and his actions were both reasonable and lawful when involved in a fatal shooting on Wednesday, April 21.
According to the report, Phet Gouvonvoung, 31, of Worcester, called Worcester Police dispatch at 10:40 PM on Thursday, September 16. He told the dispatcher he possessed an AR-15 rifle, had a bomb attached to him, and that there was a secondary device somewhere in the city. Gouvonvoung said the bomb weighed 50 pounds and he could not remove it or it would explode. He also described his clothing, but did not provide his name.
Gouvonvoung told the dispatcher that there were other people involved, and they told him to go to the police station.
Police located Gouvonvoung near Arthur Street, moving toward Billings Square and down Grafton Street.
Police followed until Gouvonvoung saw them shortly after 11 PM while near the Diamond Inn at 271 Grafton Street. Police issued commands for Gouvonvoung to put down his weapon and lay on the ground. Gouvonvoung refused to put down his weapon and told officers he could not lay down or the explosive would detonate. Officers believed they could see a detonator on Gouvonvoung’s wrist.
Over 82 minutes, officers convinced Gouvonvoung to go to his hands and knees at one point, in front of Armando’s, at 254 Grafton Street. They also convinced him to sit on two separate occasions, including at the corner of Barclay Street. Each time, Gouvonvoung stood up and continued to refuse to disarm or surrender.
The report notes that Sargeant Thomas Radula, Sargeant Shawn Barbale and Cyr all attempted to de-escalate and convince the suspect to end the standoff peacefully. While seated near the corner of Barclay Street, officers provided Gouvonvoung a bottle of water. After taking a few sips, he said the water tasted funny and again rose to his feet, this time in a more agitated state.
Gouvonvoung stated he intended to cross the street to the Cumberland Farms at 263 Grafton Street, which has live fuel pumping stations. Some civilians were in the area and other officers were in the parking lot. Cyr informed Gouvonvoung that was not possible and asked him to remain seated.
The report says that Cyr confirmed with the on-site supervisor that lethal force would be the only option if Gouvonvoung moved toward the fuel pumping stations. The bomb detonating and causing the fuel to ignite would cause devastating damage.
Gouvonvoung took several steps across Grafton Street and was steps from having a clear line of sight of officers positioned behind a SWAT van at the scene. Both Cyr and the officers behind the SWAT van were 10 to 15 feet from Gouvonvoung when Cyr fired his weapon four times.
The first two shots missed high and entered the Dunkin’ at 265 Grafton Street. The third shot impacted the suspect in the center of the chest, striking the breach area of his rifle, which was slung across the front of his body, causing a spark and small cloud of debris.
The fourth shot struck Gouvonvoung in the area of his upper lip. According to the autopsy, the bullet entered his skull from the front to rear and traveled left to right, impacting the right side of the brain and lodging in the right rear of the skull.
Two Massachusetts State Police Bomb Techs observed no signs of life from Gouvonvoung and were able to observe the device attached to his body. They believed the device to be viable. Combined with the unknown contents of the backpack Gouvonvoung was wearing, they determined it was unsafe to attempt to provide medical aid to Gouvonvoung.
Worcester Police Operations and SWAT Officers evacuated those in nearby homes and businesses. State Police Bomb Techs first utilized a robot to attempt to access the device. They eventually wore blast resistant protective suits to deal with the device by hand before deeming the scene safe.
Worcester EMS then moved in. They pronounced Gouvonvoung dead at the scene.
The device attached to Gouvonvoung consisted of two road flares, a nine volt battery with two AA batteries above, and wires leading from the batteries to the flares and around a wrist watch. All of the components appeared to have been glued together and had what appeared to be duct tape which had been cut away wrapped around it. Also found beneath the wrap was a handgun magazine containing several rounds.
Gouvonvoung also had a hunting knife, a machete, and a small caliber handgun magazine with rounds in it, along with various camping and food items.
The report says that investigators interviewed Gouvonvoung’s sister, whose name is redacted in the report. She stated that she was aware that her brother had a history of psychiatric treatment and was prescribed medications, but didn’t take them.
The report detailed results from an investigation by Early’s office, the Worcester Police Department and Massachusetts State Police.