By Seth Daniel
All in all, the moment that found Everett Police Officer Joe Pepicelli at the State House being honored with a major policing award last Thursday, Oct. 5, lasted but 60 seconds.
However, it was 60 seconds that without the mindful response of Officer Pepicelli could have resulted in several innocent bystanders being injured, or perhaps killed, by a disturbed man who was wielding a knife on a crowded April evening in Everett Square.
The result of the incident was Officer Pepicelli having to shoot the armed man as he charged him, resulting in the man dying. And though that solemn fact was noted, Police Chief Steve Mazzie and a panel of law enforcement officials from around the state honored Pepicelli for protecting the public from what might have happened if he hadn’t acted.
“The whole thing wasn’t very long,” said Mazzie. “From the time he stepped out of the car until the time he had to shoot the man, it was only about 60 or 80 seconds…I nominated him for the award and I thought it was noteworthy because he did go above and beyond in an extremely volatile situation where someone could have gotten hurt or killed…It was in the downtown in a densely populated area where there was a lot of foot traffic at that time of day.”
The George L. Hanna Awards for Bravery are named in memory of State Trooper George L. Hanna, who was shot and killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop in Auburn on February 26, 1983.
Last Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito honored police officers from departments across the Commonwealth who in the last year distinguished themselves through exemplary acts of bravery carried out in the course of their duties – including Officer Pepicelli who received the Medal of Valor.
“The officers we are privileged to honor earned their awards through extraordinary acts of bravery and a deep commitment to public safety,” said Baker, who presented the awards at a ceremony in the Massachusetts House Chamber. “They did what any officer would do in the face of danger to defend others and we in the Commonwealth are very fortunate for their devotion to protecting and serving our communities and families.”
The situation unfolded on April 21, 2016 when Officer Pepicelli responded as a one-man unit to Everett Square around 4 p.m. for a report of a man harassing passers-by.
Upon arrival, Officer Pepicelli located the man and attempted to speak to him, as he knew from dispatch that the man was supposedly armed with a knife.
Instantly, the man became agitated and pulled a knife from his back pocket and waved it threateningly towards the officer and also towards pedestrians in Everett Square.
Pepicelli backed off and created some distance between the man and himself, drawing his weapon and keeping it low.
“Officer Pepicelli had no barrier between him and the subject and after the subject began to slowly move closer to him, he went into a full sprint leading the way with the knife in hand towards officer Pepicelli,” read a recounting of the incident. “Pepicelli believing his life was in imminent danger raised his weapon and discharged his weapon an effort to stop the threat to him and the public around him. Officer Pepicelli’s rounds were all accounted for and neither he nor any member of the public was injured. Backup officers were just arriving on scene as the shooting took place and immediately rendered first aid. Despite their efforts the subject passed away from his injuries.”
Using video surveillance, Officer Pepicelli was quickly cleared of any misconduct in the police involved shooting by DA Marian Ryan.
For the act of bravery, Gov. Baker presented Officer Pepicelli with a Medal of Valor, which is the second highest policing award given out by the state. The only other award that is higher is the Medal of Honor, which this year was given to the Boston Police Officers who were ambushed and shot – becoming critically injured.
All recipients being recognized at the ceremony were nominated for acts of bravery and heroism performed over the course of 2016.
Please see the attached narrative for the names of officers receiving awards and descriptions of the incidents they were involved in that earned them their awards.