SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Police Department is today releasing the body-worn camera footage from an incident last year during which a Massachusetts State Police trooper was allegedly shot by a suspect during a disturbance on New Year’s Eve.
The body-camera footage shows officers searching for, locating and arresting the suspect. The arrest takes place at five minutes and 45 seconds. Media should note, profanity can be heard at four minutes and 48 seconds.
At approximately 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2020, Springfield Police officers responded to the 100 block of Nursery Street for a reported disturbance. While en route to the scene, there were multiple ShotSpotter activations indicating more than 10 rounds of gunfire.
A Massachusetts State Police trooper and Springfield Police Officer William Soto arrived first to the scene. Officer Soto heard multiple gunshots as he approached Nursery Street. When the suspect, later identified as Christopher Gardner, saw the cruiser arrive he allegedly began shooting at the Springfield and State Police cruisers. The first-arriving trooper was struck in the leg by gunfire. Officer Soto’s Springfield Police cruiser was also struck by gunfire. Officer Soto was not injured.
Officer Soto notified the Springfield Emergency Communications Department dispatchers that he was taking fire and a trooper was struck. He exited his cruiser and applied a tourniquet to the trooper’s leg. The trooper was transported to a local hospital by another State Police cruiser.
“Officer Soto, who graduated from our Police Academy in 2020, remained calm and communicated clearly and effectively in a high-stress situation. He displayed excellent decision-making skills by utilizing the dumpsters in the parking lot as cover from the gunfire, and showed great instincts by attending to the injured trooper rather than engaging in a chase with the suspects, which could have resulted in a worse outcome,” said Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood. “The responding officers and troopers worked well together that night, and we are grateful for our continued partnership with the State Police. Calls such as this are unpredictable and can change significantly from second-to-second, putting officers’ lives in danger at a moment’s notice.”
As this situation was transpiring, a Massachusetts State Police K-9 Trooper observed the suspect, Gardner, running on Nursery Street. Springfield Police officers located Gardner and he was taken into custody without further incident. The search for the suspect was a team effort between the Massachusetts State Police and Springfield Police officers in Squad A and Squad C.
The initial disturbance involved Gardner and an unknown individual allegedly shooting at each other. A firearm was later recovered in the area.
“I want to commend and acknowledge Officer Soto’s professionalism and efforts in not only responding to a dangerous situation of ‘shots fired’ but showing great calm and instincts by attending to the State Trooper who was shot,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said. “Like all of our brave and dedicated men and women in Blue, our Springfield Police Officers go above and beyond to protect and serve our community. This incident could have ended differently. The suspect in question had no regard for the lives of our responding officers as he opened fire, and he had no regard for the innocent bystanders that could have been caught in his crossfire. This disregard for human life is appalling and it is time we start holding these violent repeat criminals accountable for their actions before another innocent life is lost.”
These are allegations. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.