Officer justified in shooting man at Belmont gas station, AG says 

  • New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald addresses members of the press during a news conference on Nov. 21, 2017, on the officer-involved shooting in Belmont. MacDonald ruled that the Sept. 30 shooting at the Irving gas station in town was justified. ALYSSA DANDREA / Monitor staff

  • Courtesy—

  • An image from a surveillance video shows the interaction between Cpl. Evan Boulanger and Joseph Mazzitelli Jr. at a gas station in Belmont on Sept. 30. Courtesy—

  • An image from a surveillance video shows the interaction between Cpl. Evan Boulanger and Joseph Mazzitelli Jr. at a gas station in Belmont on Sept. 30. Courtesy—

Monitor staff
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Belmont corporal returned to work Tuesday, the same day he was cleared for shooting a man who simultaneously shot himself in the head at a gas station this fall.

Belmont Cpl. Evan Boulanger fired twice at Joseph Mazzitelli Jr., 46, of Belmont after Mazzitelli grabbed a gun out of a Honda Accord at the Irving gas station on Plummer Hill Road on the afternoon of Sept. 30. The bullets from Boulanger’s duty weapon penetrated Mazzitelli’s chest, but the fatal shot was fired from Mazzitelli’s own .40-caliber Smith & Wesson, the state medical examiner concluded.

Because both men fired their weapons at the same time, Boulanger did not realize for a while that Mazzitelli had shot himself, Assistant Attorney General John Kennedy said during a news conference Tuesday morning in Belmont.

When Mazzitelli first brought the gun to his head, he appeared to have pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire, according to the attorney general’s 24-page report.

“Mr. Mazzitelli immediately pulled the gun down to his waist and chambered a round ‘faster than half the special forces guys on (Boulanger’s) team,’ ” the report says. “At this point, Corporal Boulanger thought he ‘was a dead man’ if Mr. Mazzitelli raised the gun again. Corporal Boulanger believed that it took everything Mr. Mazzitelli had in order to pull the trigger the first time with the gun to his own head, and that he would not be able to do that again.”

But that’s exactly what Mazzitelli did, investigators said.

Boulanger told authorities he fired because he was concerned Mazzitelli might injure someone at the crowded gas station or misfire during an attempt to take his own life.

That afternoon, Boulanger said, he had stopped at the gas station to buy a bottle of water, but inside came across a familiar face. Following a vehicle plate check, he said he realized the man he recognized was Mazzitelli. He then confirmed with dispatch that Mazzitelli had an active warrant out of the Belmont Police Department.

Police had brought a charge of harassment against Mazzitelli for a prior incident involving his ex-girlfriend, Ruby Lane. The department had information that Mazzitelli had fired a gun outside the home of Lane’s boyfriend, but without a witness a lower-level charge of harassment was filed, Boulanger told state investigators.

When Boulanger informed Mazzitelli of the active warrant, Mazzitelli appeared agitated by his circumstances, the report says. In an attempt to de-escalate the situation, Boulanger agreed to allow Mazzitelli to retrieve a lighter from the Honda and smoke a cigarette at the back of the car.

Boulanger watched as Mazzitelli’s left hand reached into the car’s glove box, and his right hand fumbled around the center console. Boulanger said the fumbling “made the hair on the back of (his) neck stand up,” and he knew he couldn’t let Mazzitelli back in the car.

But Mazzitelli was quick, and within seconds he was in the car’s driver’s seat. Boulanger reached in and grabbed ahold of Mazzitelli around the chest, but quickly realized his positioning put him at risk of injury or death, the report says.

Boulanger first attempted to grab his Taser to subdue Mazzitelli. However, Mazzitelli quickly raised a black pistol to his own head, and, in response, Boulanger drew his gun, investigators said.

Store surveillance footage captured the shooting, which the attorney general’s office released publicly Tuesday.

Attorney Mark Sisti, who defended Mazzitelli on sexual assault charges, said Tuesday evening he had reviewed the report, but that it was too early for him to comment about how the family might proceed. Sisti previously told the Monitor he was looking into the circumstances that led to Boulanger’s interaction with Mazzitelli.

“It’s a concerning situation; it’s tragic,” Sisti said. “It didn’t appear to me as though Joe had any intent to inflict harm on anyone but himself.”

Toxicology tests revealed Mazzitelli had high levels of methamphetamine in his blood at the time of his death. His ex-girlfriend told police she had spoken with Mazzitelli the night before the shooting and said “he was not going to make it to his next court date because he was going to kill himself,” the report reads.

Mazzitelli had a criminal record that included convictions for criminal trespass, criminal mischief, drunken driving and other motor vehicle infractions. He also had a history of domestic violence with two different women requesting restraining orders against him since the late 1990s.

Most recently, Mazzitelli was accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman while the two were out for a ride on his motorcycle in Gilmanton this past summer. He was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury in September on one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault, as well as on three counts each of sexual assault and simple assault. He was out of jail on bail conditions at the time of the officer-involved shooting.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)