The Middlesex County District Attorney has said her office is looking again at the tragic case of Eurie Stamps — a 68-year-old Black man killed in his Framingham home in 2011 by a SWAT team — but activists say they want Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to get involved.
About 200 people attended a rally in Framingham Saturday calling for justice for Stamps as part of a wave of nationwide protests against police killings of unarmed Black people.
“We want to see this case reopened by the attorney general of the state of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, and by the United States Department of Justice, and we’re going to keep calling for that until it happens,” Rick Holmes, one of the vigil organizers, told the audience outside the city’s Memorial Building.
Stamps was in his home in 2011 when police came in search of his stepson on a drug charge. Stamps was ordered to lie on the floor while officers searched the house, and was shot in the head by Officer Paul Duncan. An investigation by the office of then Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone determined that Duncan’s gun went off accidentally. But Stamps’ supporters say the investigation was “shoddy,” rushed and incomplete.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan has not committed to officially reopening the Stamps case, but told WGBH News on Thursday that her office is planning to release details of that investigation to the public.
“[In that process], we need to be looking at the materials, assessing what was done in 2011 and whether there is anything else that could have or should have been done,” Ryan said.
Larry Stead, a former Cambridge police officer and a friend of Stamps, said at the Saturday rally he believes there is more to the story than the initial investigation uncovered. He questioned why the safety was off on Duncan’s gun, why Duncan had his gun pointed at the head of an unarmed man, and why the SWAT team invaded Stamps’ home at all after already arresting his 20-year-old stepson outside the house.
“SWAT teams, they like action,” said Stead, who was in the Cambridge Police Department for 35 years. “Eurie’s in there watching a Celtics game, in his pajamas, doing nothing. Eurie is 6’4’’. He’s a Black male. He’s weighing about 280 lbs. … These cops are scared. They got their rifles out. Eurie didn’t have a chance.”
“This is the cloudy part,” Stead said. “You want me to believe, and you believe, that the cop had an accident? That the gun goes off, and Eurie’s dead? C’mon people, that was no accident.”
Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, said at the vigil that the death of Stamps was one of many unjustified killings of Black people in the United States — including the killing Danroy “DJ” Henry, Jr. of Easton. Henry’s case has been in the news again in part because his family released a video accusing Markey of ignoring their pleas for a new investigation of his death.
“We gather here in the square to recommit ourselves to a country that will not just demand justice, but will bring it,” Kennedy said on Saturday.
Markey also sent a statement condemning Stamps’ killing that was read at the vigil.
Framingham Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer, the first African-American woman to hold that position, said Saturday that since the killing, the city has made changes to the police department. Spicer recently signed a declaration with the chief of police specifying a “no chokehold policy” and mandating police behavior “that shows respect and humanity for all of the people.”
Organizers of the vigil have called on the city of Framingham to fire Officer Paul Duncan. When asked by WGBH News if Duncan’s termination was imminent, Spicer said, “Well, you know it’s one of those things that’s passionate, but it’s also one of those things you can’t go back and correct from 10 years ago.”
She pointed to Ryan’s review of the case and said, “I know she is sensitive, she is unpacking what happened 10 years ago and so, that’s what’s happening right now. So I’m going to try to trust that process.”
Framingham disbanded its SWAT team after Stamps’ death and amid questions about why it needed a militarized operation for a community with a relatively low crime rate and low-level drug offenses.
Stamps’ killing is being compared by Black Lives Matter advocates to the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., who was killed in her own home by police who were exercising a no-knock warrant for a suspected criminal who had nothing to do with Taylor.
WGBH News’ Aaron Schachter contributed to this report.