A Reading police officer is facing a manslaughter charge after shooting and killing a man during a domestic violence call in 2018.
A Middlesex County grand jury indicted Erik Drauschke Wednesday, District Attorney Marian Ryan's office announced. It's an outcome that legal experts say is exceedingly rare.
Drauschke shot and killed Alan Greenough, 43, in Feburary 2018 after responding to a domestic assault call at Greenough's apartment on Main Street in Reading. According to the DA's office, officers were attempting to arrest Greenough for an alleged assault on the previous day. When they arrived, Greenough locked himself in his apartment and refused to leave.
Greenough later escaped through a window and sat in a parked car at the gas station near his apartment, according to Ryan's office. Drauschke found Greenough there and ordered him out of the car at gunpoint, without waiting for backup.
"Mr. Greenough is not alleged to have made any attempt to flee or to make any threatening gestures towards the officer while in the vehicle," the prosecutor's office said.
Outside the car, Greenough kept his hands in his sweatshirt pocket and "came quickly" toward the officer, according to Ryan's office. He yelled "shoot me."
The officer allegedly backed up and then shot Greenough twice in the chest, killing him. Greenough was unarmed.
A spokesperson for the Middlesex District Attorney's office said she couldn't comment further on the investigation. In an unusual move, an inquest was held by a district court judge at the request of the DA last year, according to The Boston Globe. Those proceedings are not public.
An arraignment date for Drauschke hasn't been set.
Drauschke's attorney, Peter Pasciucco, didn't specifically say what the officer saw that led him to shoot. He said in a statement that the officer's actions were "entirely consistent with his extensive training and deadly force was warranted."
"We look forward to a trial where — as opposed to a grand jury — we don't deal in probabilities," he said. "Police officers have dangerous jobs and are routinely required to make split-second decisions. They should not be expected to gamble with their own safety when faced with legitimate threats."
Civil rights attorney Howard Friedman, who has represented people harmed by police and the families of those killed for more than 40 years, said he couldn't recall a time when a Massachusetts police officer was criminally charged for killing someone while on duty.
Friedman, who isn't involved in this case, speculated that the grand jury may have questioned why Drauschke didn't wait for backup — essentially creating a potentially dangerous situation for himself.
Friedman said it could be that grand juries are also just more willing to hold officers accountable now.
"It may be ... that the times have changed and the times for giving police officers a pass are over," he said. "This is an officer who shot and killed someone who didn't have a gun, who had no weapon."
He added that it is unusual to have a case like this stay in state court rather than federal court, because DAs work so closely with the same local police they're investigating.
"This is a brave move by the district attorney's office," Friedman said.
In a joint statement released Wednesday, Reading's police chief and town manager said Drauschke has been put on unpaid leave as a result of the charges. He was previously on paid administrative leave, as required by the union contract, since the February 2018 shooting.
Drauschke has worked for the department since 2006.
"The Reading Police Department has cooperated fully with the district attorney's investigation over the past two-and-a-half years, and the agency will continue to cooperate fully," Chief David Clark said in the statement.
Clark did not return a call seeking further comment. Calls to the police union that represents Reading officers were not immediately returned.
This article was originally published on September 23, 2020.
This segment aired on September 23, 2020.