DA: Bullet that struck Brigham and Women’s valet fired by Boston police officer

BOSTON (WHDH) - A Brigham and Women’s valet who was seriously injured when gunfire erupted outside of the hospital earlier this month was struck by a bullet that was fired by a Boston police officer and intended for a suspect who was in possession of a “replica firearm,” Suffolk County Attorney Rachael Rollins announced Tuesday.

Officers responding to a report of a man who threatened a security guard at the hospital in the area Fenwood Road around 9:30 a.m on Feb. 7 learned 41-year-old Juston Root, of Mattapan, had flashed a firearm before chasing a pair of guards down the street, Rollins said at a press conference.

Root then stopped chasing the guards, allegedly posed as a concerned citizen, and directed officers away from him in an effort to thwart their investigation, Rollins said.

A Boston police officer ordered Root to stop but he allegedly pulled a “very realistic looking” firearm out of his waistband and opened fire on the officer, Rollins said. A second officer then discharged their firearm and wounded Root.

The valet, whose name has not been released, was hit in the head by a stray bullet and hospitalized with serious injuries. They have since been released from the hospital.

After being shot by police, Root fled the scene in a Chevrolet Bolt. He later crashed after hitting multiple vehicles in the area of the Brookline/Newton line, where he was shot and killed by police near the intersection of Hammond Street and Route 9, Rollins said.

During the press conference, Rollins played a shocking new surveillance video that showed the alleged suspect firing point-blank shots at a police officer who returned fire. The officer could then be seen falling to the sidewalk as the suspect ran off.

“The events of Feb. 7, 2020, were traumatic for many. I want to be as transparent as possible,” Rollins said.

Justin Heitmann, who was waiting for an appointment in the hospital, pulled out his phone and recorded a video that showed several Boston police officers gathered around Root with their guns drawn as he hobbled into his car and sped off.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said the police officer who encountered Root was “definitely in fear of his life.”

“It’s not there intent to go out there and be involved in an officer-involved shooting that may end in a fatality,” Gross said. “We’re human too, and you can see that this officer is definitely in fear of his life.”

Authorities are working to determine whether the officer-involved shooting was justified. Rollins said final determinations may not be made for “many months.”

In a statement, a hospital spokesperson said, “On behalf of our Brigham family, I want to thank the many members of law enforcement who responded to our campus on Feb. 7. We are immensely grateful for their commitment to protect and serve our community.”

The Suffolk District Attorney’s Office and the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office are assisting local police departments with an investigation.

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