CHICOPEE, Mass. — A gunman holed up inside a home shot a state trooper twice before he was killed in a chaotic Friday morning confrontation that authorities said could have been much worse.
A witness said bullets flew everywhere at about 8 a.m. as an empty school bus drove past, commuters walked in and out of a nearby store and a tanker truck pulled up to a nearby gas station in Chicopee, a town of about 55,000 residents just outside Springfield.
“This could have been a disaster of incredible proportions,” Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette said.
The 44-year-old trooper, John Vasquez, was shot in the hand and leg and also suffered a shrapnel wound on the other leg after responding to a report of shots fired at the Chicopee home, state police spokesman David Procopio said.
Vasquez, a 20-year veteran who’s married with a teenage son, underwent surgery at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. He’s in good condition and expected to remain in the hospital for a while before going on injured leave, Procopio said.
State troopers and Chicopee police returned fire in self-defense, authorities said.
The investigation was in its early stages and it was not clear exactly how many shots were fired, but some witnesses say they heard 20 or more.
The suspect was identified as 41-year-old Carlos Laguer, of Springfield. He had a long criminal history that involved violence, Chicopee police Chief John Ferraro Jr. said.
Laguer was found dead in the home at about 10 a.m. after a young woman and a boy younger than 10 safely escaped from their first-floor apartment. Police say the gunman knew the two but didn’t immediately say whether they were hostages.
“The investigation will determine whether Laguer’s entry into the home was an act of domestic violence,” Procopio said.
The suspect had more than one gun, said Col. Marian McGovern, state police commander, but she didn’t say how many.
It was also unclear exactly how the suspect died, but police entering the home didn’t open fire. They reported a strong smell of natural gas, prompting a call to the gas utility to examine the home.
Authorities are investigating whether the gunman committed suicide, was hit and killed by police gunfire or both, Procopio said.
A school bus was driving by at the time of the shooting, but no children were inside, Procopio said. A nearby elementary school was also placed in lockdown.
The Hampden district attorney’s office is leading the investigation.