PEABODY — Phillip Noto Sr. grew agitated when police officers told him they had to arrest him. He sat down on his bed, reached down and took out what appeared to be a handgun.
Standing, Noto dared officers to kill him, according to a report released yesterday by Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. The report, which details the DA's investigation into the Sept. 15 shooting, clears the four officers involved of wrongdoing in Noto's death.
"Well (expletive) it, just kill me," Noto said, according to the report.
At seeing Noto with a gun pointed at them, Patrolman Steven Molk lunged at Noto to disarm him. Patrolman Richard Cochran took out his gun and ordered Noto to put his weapon down, the report said.
When Noto failed to drop his gun, Cochran shot him once in the stomach. Noto died four days later from complications of the gunshot wound. The gun has since been identified as a .22 caliber starter pistol, a firearm that shoots only blank rounds.
Blodgett said the officers' actions were justified to protect themselves and innocent bystanders, namely Noto's family.
"It's my opinion that the actions taken by officers that day were lawful," the district attorney said.
In a letter to police Chief Robert Champagne, Blodgett said he planned no further action and called the matter concluded.
The nine-page report by state police Lt. Norman Zuk and affirmed by Blodgett comes more than three months after the shooting.
Blodgett said the lag to release Zuk's findings was the result of the lieutenant's court obligations.
"This was more an anomaly than a practice," he said.
Blodgett assigns Zuk and about four other "seasoned" state police officers in his office to such investigations.
The DA said his office had investigated at least two other police shootings — both in Lynn — this year. He could not be sure yesterday how much time had elapsed between those shootings and their reports.
State police report
Zuk's report was based on evidence collected in a 21âÑ2-inch-thick binder that included transcripts of interviews with Noto's family and police officers, crime scene photos and ballistics reports.
The report offers the first public look into what transpired between police officers and Noto before he was shot.
A fearful Ellen Noto did not call police directly when her husband returned to their 60 Washington St. home Sept. 15. Instead, she relayed the information to a friend who called police, the report said.
It was the third time in two days police had been called to the house for domestic violence.
A day earlier, Ellen Noto had taken out an emergency restraining order against her husband after he threatened to harm her.
He was arrested for threatening to commit a crime, held overnight and arraigned the following morning — Sept. 15 — in Peabody District Court. A judge set bail at $750 and the restraining order was extended.
Noto posted bail, left court and made his way home, violating the restraining order.
Cochran arrived first and had already started speaking to Phillip Noto when Molk showed up, Zuk's report says.
Noto told police he knew he was not supposed to be at home and wanted to get his medication.
Sgt. Arthur Yeo and Patrolman Richard Heath arrived at some point before the shooting.
When the patrolmen told Noto he was going to be handcuffed and removed, he became agitated.
"He reached down the side of the bed with his right hand," Zuk wrote. "He suddenly stood up and pulled up a gun."
After he was shot, Noto fell onto the bed, and his gun fell out of his hand.
Cochran and Molk assessed Noto's injuries. Yeo called for an ambulance and administered first aid.
Noto had been shot in the stomach "with no apparent exit wound," the report said.
Based on the evidence, Zuk concluded that the officers acted appropriately.
Champagne said yesterday he was glad the matter was brought to a conclusion. He called the shooting a "tragedy all around." It was the first in Peabody in at least two decades.
"It's a terrible tragedy," he said. "We're grateful to the district attorney and the state police for doing a thorough review of this and we will move forward."
He described the report as "factual" and "to the point."
Champagne said he had no misgivings about the time taken to release the report.
"You know what, they're as busy as they can be," he said "Thorough is the watch word."
The police chief said he was also awaiting a separate review by the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, of which his department is a member. Champagne said the agency would use Zuk's report to analyze officers' response and offer better ways to handle future incidents.
He expects the agency to complete its report by the end of January.
The chief said he has made no changes within the station since the shooting.
A message left for Ellen Noto yesterday was not returned as of press time.