An 18-hour manhunt for the person who killed a police officer in Massachusetts ended with an exchange of gunfire Sunday afternoon that left the suspect dead and a state trooper wounded, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said.
Auburn police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. was making a traffic stop around 12:30 a.m. Sunday when an occupant of the car shot him and fled, police Chief Andrew Sluckis said.
Tarentino, 42, was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead, Sluckis said.
The shooting prompted a joint investigation involving several local police departments, the Massachusetts State Police, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
The search for 35-year-old Jorge Zambrano, a suspect with an “extensive criminal history,” led authorities to a duplex-apartment in nearby Oxford, said Colonel Richard McKeon, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.
Behind the residence they found a vehicle believed to be the one Tarentino stopped, McKeon said.
The State Police Special Tactical Operations Team used tear gas and canines to enter one side of the duplex. The team cleared the apartment without finding the suspect, McKeon said.
Members of the tactical team found an opening in the cellar wall that led to the other side of the duplex, McKeon said. Investigators made their way through the cellar and the first floor, climbing to a bedroom on the second floor, he said.
As they entered, a closet door “burst open” and the suspect emerged firing at the officers, McKeon said.
“He was lying in ambush, waiting for them,” Early said.
An exchange of gunfire ensued in which the trooper and Zambrano were shot. The trooper, who was not identified, and Zambrano were brought to UMass Memorial Medical Center, Early said.
Zambrano was pronounced dead at the hospital, Early said. The extent of the trooper’s injuries are not known but he is able to walk, he added.
While officers from various agencies moved through Auburn and neighboring towns to follow leads, others lined the streets to pay tribute to the slain officer as a motorcade brought his body from the medical examiner’s office to a funeral home.
“We are devastated for his family. The residents of Auburn have lost a dedicated and brave public servant,” Sluckis said.
The investigation into Tarentino’s homicide will continue, McKeon told reporters Sunday.
“We owe his family a thorough accounting of everything that happened,” Sluckis said.
Tarentino, who joined the Auburn Police Department two years ago, is survived by his wife and three children.
A liaison officer from the Auburn Police Department has been assigned to the Tarentino family until the officer is laid to rest, Sluckis said.
“There was not a member of this department that didn’t embrace him and like him. He got along with everybody, was somebody who was always smiling, “Chief Sluckis said.
“He was an outstanding guy and we’re going to miss him quite a lot.”
Nineteen law enforcement officers have died in firearm-related incidents in the United States so far this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Fund. Presumably, that number includes the Massachusetts death, as the fund’s website said its total was through May 22.