Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett yesterday denied a Salem News request for the names of officers involved in a police shooting on Aug. 23 and access to police reports about the incident.
Assistant District Attorney David O’Sullivan responded to the request in writing at 4:55 p.m. yesterday, saying that releasing the information would jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.
Scott Kehoe, a 37-year-old Danvers man, was shot and killed by police after he lunged at them with a knife, according to a press release issued at the time. Police and the district attorney’s office have said five Danvers police officers and a State Police trooper were at the scene, but refused to identify them.
“The investigation is still underway,” O’Sullivan wrote. “Critical forensic reports, including ballistics, toxicology and the autopsy report, have not yet been completed.”
He said the information is being withheld under an “investigatory exemption” to the public records law. Releasing any further information from that evening, including “material witnesses,” would jeopardize the integrity of the investigation, he wrote.
Peter Caruso, an attorney representing The Salem News, sent a response to O’Sullivan at 5:35 p.m. asking that the reports to be released today.
“The records we requested are public records,” Caruso wrote. “... While a voluntary witness, a confidential investigative technique, or details in a witness statement may be withheld, you cannot keep secret these public records. Most glaringly, you cannot keep secret the name of the shooter or shooters.”
The investigatory exemption “is not blanket in nature and cannot be used to allow for withholding of responsive records in their entirety,” he said,.
The district attorney’s office offered yesterday to redact information it believes should be withheld from the public and to charge The Salem News for the cost of redacting the information. Caruso said there should be no charge other than copying fees for what he said are public records.
The district attorney’s office has said it will make the information public in the future, as part of a “complete report,” after its investigation is completed.
Police were called to Kehoe’s apartment on a report of an assault and were also trying to serve warrants when Kehoe made repeated attempts to stab them with a knife, according the district attorney’s earlier press release. When he lunged at them, he was shot and killed.
Kehoe, who was a longtime Peabody resident before moving to Danvers, had struggled for years with mental illness and substance abuse, a family friend confirmed. He had had prior scrapes with the law and most recently was charged with kidnapping and home invasion in South Boston and resisting arrest in Danvers.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.