Essex County DA clears officers, troopers of wrongdoing in sobriety checkpoint death

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett has issued a report clearing officers and troopers of any wrongdoing leading to the death of Kenneth Howe while in police custody.

According to a statement issued by the Essex County D.A.’s office “[o]n November 25, 2009 Kenneth Howe was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped at a “sobriety checkpoint” on Route 114 in North Andover. After a struggle, Mr. Howe was placed under arrest and transported to State Police barracks in Andover for booking. Upon arrival, Mr. Howe appeared to be asleep and therefore had to be carried upstairs to the booking area by officers. When they got him to the booking area, the officers noticed that Mr. Howe had stopped breathing. They immediately initiated CPR and called for an ambulance. Mr. Howe was taken to Lawrence General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:45 a.m. November 26, 2009.”

An autopsy and subsequent interview of the medical examiners showed that Mr. Howe had “no ‘purposeful’ injuries” and there was no evidence that he had been struck with a baton or flashlight. In addition, investigators conducted over 70 interviews of witnesses, including law enforcement officers present at the arrest, a news photographer who photographed the event, and other occupants of Mr. Howe’s car, none of whom reported that officers or troopers struck Mr. Howe or used excessive force.

According to the D.A’s statement, “the unfortunate death of Mr. Howe was caused by a strenuous struggle between Mr. Howe and law enforcement officers. This struggle continued as a direct result of Mr. Howe’s failure to comply with law enforcement’s requests for cooperation. Officers did respond to Mr. Howe’s resistance with appropriate force in order to restrain him.”


About Attorney John J. MacLaughlan

John MacLaughlan is Massachusetts licensed attorney as well as a Boston police officer. John is currently assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force (Gang Unit). He is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Law with a concentration in Labor Law. He holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell as well as a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. John has taught Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Use of Force, Applied Patrol Procedures, and Police Response to Active Shooters to sworn police officers and police academy recruits. Prior to becoming a Boston Police Officer, John served for 9 years as a police officer in Lowell, where he was a member of the Police Dive Team and Patrol Rifle Team.
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One Response to Essex County DA clears officers, troopers of wrongdoing in sobriety checkpoint death

  1. @murmur55 says:

    Mr. Kenneth Howe was killed by prone restraint combined with restraint asphyxia. No one should be maintained in prone position for longer than a few seconds due to the compromise of the diaphragm and the inability to fully expand the lungs. Adding weight of police officers to the prone position only increases the inability to ventilate the lungs, leading to suffocation. Maintaining this situation for 10 minutes guaranteed Mr. Howe’s death at the hands of the police.

    There must be an immediate change in police procedure in order to prevent more bad restraints. David Woodman case and the Roxbury CC case should both be reviewed.

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