The owner of a popular Massachusetts pizza parlor is in custody after a dramatic police standoff from the roof of his business Thursday night, when authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for local residents.
As reported by Framingham Source, Justin Breakspear, 31, was arraigned Friday at the district courthouse in Framingham, 20 miles west of Boston. Charges included six counts of attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm without a license, witness intimidation, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and possession of a firearm after two violent crime or drug convictions.
Judge David Frank ordered a preliminary competency evaluation, and Breakspear was held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for July 26.
According to an earlier report by Framingham Source, officers were called early Thursday evening to a “civil matter” between a man, later identified as Breakspear, and his girlfriend at the Slice of New York restaurant at 847 Edgell Road. According to the report, Breakspear stated he was an owner of the business at a recent town hearing.
After speaking with both parties, police left the scene.
About two hours later, Breakspear’s girlfriend reportedly contacted law enforcement again to say that Breakspear had left their residence at 14 Whiting Road with a gun, after another verbal altercation.
Police arrived to the home and found Breakspear outside. The suspect allegedly fired at six officers. No one was injured, and Breakspear fled on foot.
Police issued a shelter in place advisory, telling nearby residents to stay inside their homes during the active shooter investigation.
A command center was set up at a local elementary school, and armored trucks and helicopters were seen in the area.
The suspect eventually headed to the shopping plaza where his restaurant is located, and climbed to the roof of the building. Negotiators were called to the scene, and Breakspear surrendered to state police at approximately 10:50 pm.
As reported by the Boston Globe, Breakspear has an extensive history of problems with the law, including an illegal gun possession conviction for which he served a five-year prison sentence.
The MetroWest Daily News reports that a prosecutor told Judge Frank that Breakspear had threatened to kill the entire police department when he was arguing with her girlfriend.
“He told her he would kill all of the Framingham Police officers for what they’ve done to him in the past,” prosecutor Wendi Safran reportedly said at Breakspear’s arraignment.
“He told her he was not going to go back to prison.”
Barbie Convery, who works at another company in the same plaza, told the Boston Globe that she was surprised to learn of the business owner’s criminal activity.
“He’s the nicest guy. He’s nice to everyone at this plaza. I never would have thought . . . never in a million years.”
Social media played an important role in informing neighbors about the dangerous situation, as many residents reported learning about the incident via Facebook, Twitter and email alerts from local media outlets.
Framingham Source editor and publisher Susan Petroni first broke the story. She told CrimeOnline that it’s critical to ensure factual reporting in emotionally-charged breaking news situations, when social media conversation could potentially fuel even more panic in the neighborhood.
The local journalist praised law enforcement’s handling of the situation, saying they “took a calm, methodical and practical approach in making sure that nobody was injured” during the standoff.
Feature photo: Framingham Police Department