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Police fatally shoot man who claimed to have rifle, bomb

April 21, 2021 GMT

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A man was killed in a standoff with police that began Tuesday night after he called 911 and claimed to have a rifle and a bomb that he threatened to detonate, according to the Worcester county district attorney’s office.

Police fatally shot Phet Gouvonvong, 31, of Worcester, during a confrontation on Grafton Street around midnight, District Attorney Joseph Early said at a news conference. Negotiators had been talking to Gouvonvong for half an hour when he made “furtive movements” toward officers, prompting the shooting, Early said.

The encounter began when Gouvonvong called 911 around 10:30 p.m. and said he had a rifle and an explosive device. Police found him on Grafton Street and said he was wearing body armor and had a backpack and what appeared to be a rifle.

A police SWAT team joined several negotiators who tried to calm the man, Early said, and another negotiator reached him by phone. After about half an hour, the man grew more agitated and made a motion that provoked the shooting, Early said.

“He made some furtive movements toward the officers,” Early said. “Several shots were fired.”

Police said they believe one officer fired several shots, and that Gouvonvong did not open fire. Gouvonvong was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators are working to identify what weapons he had. Early said Gouvonvong had “what appeared to be an assault rifle” and an explosive device. Officers later recovered a handgun with multiple rounds of ammunition from the body, the district attorney said.

Police on Wednesday were searching Gouvonvong’s apartment in Worcester. They also asked anyone with cellphone footage of the confrontation to share it as potential evidence. Lt. Sean Murtha, a spokesperson for the department, said a “small crowd” had gathered nearby during the confrontation.

Investigators do not have a sense of any motive, Early said. The district attorney said Gouvonvong “wasn’t known to the Worcester police department.”

Some witnesses to the shooting said they heard the man shouting about what appeared to be a custody battle. Raymond Beeso told The Telegram & Gazette that he watched the scene from a nearby parking lot.

“He was yelling about not being able to visit his kids,” Beeso said. “He just said that he has been through this before and he wasn’t getting his visits.”

Anita Perez, a nearby resident, told the newspaper she heard police yelling at the man to put his gun down. About 15 minutes later, she had lost sight of the man but heard more yelling.

“I heard the man yelling at the cops. I don’t know what he was saying. He was yelling at the police,” she said. “And all of a sudden we just heard three, four gunshots, and that was it.”