Officer run down by car: Unlicensed teen driver hits, injures Salem PD's Michael Shea
The wife of Patrolman Michael Shea, Melissa Shea, was brought by a friend to the scene of an accident involving her husband last night. (Kristen Olson/Staff photo)
By Ben Casselman and Andrew Hickey
PEABODY - A car driven by an unlicensed teenage driver struck and severely injured a Salem police officer while he was directing traffic in Peabody last night.
Salem Patrolman Michael Shea, 39, was working a private detail around a KeySpan repair crew on Tremont Street in Peabody at about 10:20 last night when he was hit by a Honda Accord, Salem police Lt. Scott Englehardt said. According to an eyewitness, Shea flew into the air and hit the car's windshield before landing on the curb.
Shea was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston by Medflight helicopter for treatment of serious injuries, Peabody police Lt. John McCorry said. Details on the specific injuries Shea suffered were not available early this morning, and a hospital spokesman could not provide Shea's condition.
The driver of the car, who identified herself to police as Leila Lopes, 17, of 143 Lowell St., Peabody, was arrested and charged with driving without a license and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, Peabody police Lt. Dennis Bonaiuto said early this morning. Bonaiuto added that police have not confirmed if Leila Lopes is the woman's real name because officers struggled with a language barrier and had to get an interpreter to speak with her.
Peabody police are continuing the probe with assistance from a state police accident reconstruction team.
Tremont Street is a narrow, two-way street that locals often use to cut through from downtown Peabody to Salem. Shea had closed one lane to traffic as gas company crews worked to fix a leak outside Poodles and Pals Dog and Cat Grooming at 23 Tremont St. Shea tried to stop the oncoming Honda, but the driver continued, hitting Shea head-on, Salem Lt. Paul Lemelin said.
Eyewitness Nicholas O'Hearn estimated the maroon Honda Accord LX was traveling 25 to 30 mph when it struck Shea, who he said flew into the air on impact.
O'Hearn said he was trying to turn onto Tremont Street from Tremont Place, a small dead-end street where he had been visiting his girlfriend. He said Shea had indicated with his flashlight for him to stop.
"All of a sudden I saw him fly up in the air and do a 360," O'Hearn said.
O'Hearn said he rushed to the fallen officer, who was unconscious and bleeding. He said police and firefighters arrived in under five minutes.
The collision left a large, deep dent in the passenger side of the Honda's windshield. The car continued several hundred yards down the street, nearly to the end of the block.
Neighbors quickly gathered as Shea was rushed by ambulance to a nearby soccer field where a helicopter could land. After Shea was taken away, a police hat lay next to a pool of blood on the sidewalk. His black-and-yellow flashlight lay in the street, still turned on.
Shea, a 17-year veteran of the police force, was born and raised in Salem, Englehardt said. Shea is married and has "a couple of children," Englehardt said. Salem police cruisers took Shea's wife, Melissa, and their children to the hospital to be with the injured patrolman.
The crash marks the second time in less than a month that an officer was struck while working a private detail. On March 28, Topsfield Patrolman Shawn Frost was hit while directing traffic along Route 1. The driver in that case, Carlton Roffey, 88, of Danvers, is scheduled to be arraigned in Newburyport today on charges related to that crash.
Shea is also the second Salem police officer in less than a year to be hit by a car while working a detail. Last July, Patrolman Phil Verrette was struck by a Hyundai and seriously injured while directing traffic on Marlborough Road in Salem. Verrette, who was taken to a Boston trauma center by Medflight after the crash, has since returned to duty.
Englehardt said the recent incidents illustrate a dangerous trend plaguing officers who opt to work private details.
"I don't think people pay attention as much as they used to on the roads," he said, noting that Shea was hit during a statewide campaign to thwart aggressive driving.
Last night's accident struck a nerve among fellow officers.
"That's my worst nightmare," said Peabody Patrolman Gerald Fitzgerald, who was on the scene. "It's not being shot by a gun, it's being hit by a car while on detail."
McCorry said that while Peabody officers typically work details in their city, it is not uncommon for an officer from a neighboring city or town to provide personnel if no local officers are available to fill the job.
Staff photojournalist Kristen Olson contributed to this story.
Staff reporter Ben Casselman can be reached at (978) 338-2529 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Staff reporter Andrew Hickey can be reached at (978) 338-2525 or by e-mail at [email protected]
This is the second police officer hit by a car, working a detail on the North Shore this month. I'd say we need to target specific drivers..but we can't... People just DO NOT know how to drive anymore. Both of these officers are suffering sever injuries. This pisses me off uncontrollably, it's such a sin.
My thoughts and prayers go out to both Officer Frost of Topsfield and Officer Shea of Salem and their families.
Well, I think it comes back to the ease of being able to get a license these days. When I got my license, all the trooper made me do was back up about 5 feet and drive in a circle. Then he told me not to get any tickets over the summer while I had my license.
Although, not getting a license doesn't necessarily stop anyone from driving a car....