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Nine-hour standoff ends peacefully: Downtown Danvers ordeal attracts many onlookers
By Jill Harmacinski and Ben Casselman
Staff writers


DANVERS — A suicidal Essex Street man touched off a nine-hour standoff with police and armored tactical team members in a typically quiet downtown neighborhood yesterday.

Francis Kernan, 42, barricaded himself in his home at 19 Essex St. at 5 yesterday morning when several police officers went to his door and tried to arrest him on a domestic abuse warrant. He threatened to hurt himself, which forced police to seal off the neighborhood and call in a regional special weapons and tactics team.

Neighborhood homes were not evacuated during the standoff, though police escorted nearby residents to and from their homes all day. Kernan's upstairs neighbors were stuck in the house throughout the ordeal.

Surrounded by 40 police officers, Kernan finally surrendered just after 2 p.m. He was taken to Beverly Hospital for an evaluation, police said.

It was unclear last night if Kernan had any weapons in his home. After talking with Kernan all day and waiting, crisis negotiators were able to coax his surrender, making tear gas and forced entry unnecessary.

"Sometimes, it pays to just stand back ... to take time and talk," said Danvers police Capt. Neil Ouellette. "To take a breath and try to negotiate."

The incident provided a spectacle in downtown Danvers. Throughout the day, onlookers pressed police lines while children on rollerblades skated down Cherry Street to see what the excitement was about, then left when they became bored. Other children came by on bicycles. Walkers, enjoying the midday sun, stopped by and some neighbors brought lunch so as not to miss any aspect of the standoff. Others made coffee runs for the police officers, some of whom had been there since 5 a.m.

Police cruisers, unmarked cars and SWAT team trucks lined Essex Street. Firefighters and paramedics were stationed in the neighborhood throughout the day.

Police went to Kernan's home early yesterday after his wife said he had assaulted her and threatened "to kill her and her animals," according to police.

Police said Kernan was charged with domestic assault and battery and may face additional charges as a result of the standoff. He is scheduled for arraignment in Salem District Court today.

Neighbors said they weren't entirely surprised by the standoff, saying they had heard fights in the house before.

"They have their arguments," said Steve Jutras, who works for Steven Cole, the second-floor resident at 19 Essex St. Cole owns Old Town Masonry. Jutras and fellow worker Jim Theriault were supposed to work at 8 yesterday, but when they arrived in downtown Danvers, they found the street blocked by police cars.

"We're meant to be pouring some cement right now," Jutras said. "I don't think that's going to happen."

They couldn't do the job on their own because Cole had the concrete in his dump truck, so the two men sat on a nearby doorstep to wait. Four hours later, they were still there.

"If I'd put the concrete in my truck last night, I'd be pouring now," Theriault said.

Theriault said he wasn't extremely concerned about his boss' well-being, though he was trapped upstairs from Kernan throughout the police negotiations. Theriault said Cole's wife, Vikki Friend-Cole, trains police dogs and has a large rottweiler named Ice.

"I've never seen anyone get through that door," Theriault said.

Reached last night, Friend-Cole said only "It was a nightmare." She "respectfully declined" to offer further comment for this article.

Kernan surrendered yesterday to Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, one of two trained crisis negotiators in the Danvers Police Department. Local police officers associated with the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council and Massachusetts State Police assisted police in Danvers yesterday.
 

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stm4710 said:
Kernan surrendered yesterday to Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, one of two trained crisis negotiators in the Danvers Police Department. Local police officers associated with the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council and Massachusetts State Police assisted police in Danvers yesterday.
Thank God they didn't call Lon Horiuchi, the FBI sniper from Ruby Ridge!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Court orders mental evaluation for man in Danvers standoff
By Jill Harmacinski
Staff writer


SALEM — A Danvers man described as "obviously distraught" will spend 20 days undergoing a psychological evaluation after he touched off a nine-hour standoff with police at his home on Sunday.

Francis Kernan, 42, was charged with resisting arrest, threatening to commit a crime and domestic assault and battery. Following his arraignment in Salem District Court yesterday, Judge Robert Cornetta ordered Kernan to undergo a competency evaluation at Bridgewater State Hospital. Doctors there will determine if he is mentally able to assist with his own defense and understand the workings of the court system.

Cornetta yesterday issued a restraining order barring Kernan from going near his wife of three years. The woman, who appeared visibly shaken, testified briefly in court yesterday.

Assistant District Attorney Kevin Prendergast said the woman was "absolutely terrified" Kernan would be released after his court appearance yesterday.

According to police, Kernan fought with his wife early Sunday morning, and threatened to kill her and her pets and burn down their house at 19 Essex St., near Danvers Town Hall. The woman left the house and went to police for help at 2 a.m. Sunday, but when they showed up to arrest him, he refused to leave his home.

"He said he wasn't coming out and if we tried to come in, he'd kill himself," Danvers Police Sgt. Robert Bettencourt, the department's prosecuting officer, said in court yesterday. Forty police officers, including a regional SWAT team, surrounded the house.

A trained crisis negotiator, Bettencourt talked with Kernan throughout Sunday's ordeal, eventually getting him to peacefully surrender around 2 p.m. No one was injured.

In court yesterday, Bettencourt said Kernan, a Navy veteran, was involved in a similar incident in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s, but was never prosecuted. "He was involved in a domestic situation there where he said he would kill himself in that one also," Bettencourt said.

Handcuffed and shackled, Kernan was brought to court yesterday in an orange jail jumpsuit and a green jacket. Tearful and slightly shaken, Kernan became physically ill at one point and was rushed out of the courtroom by officers.

"We obviously have a distraught man before you," said William Martin, who served as Kernan's attorney during yesterday's arraignment.

Martin said Kernan was born into a military family and traveled throughout the country during his youth. He is the father of two children, age 8 and 15, who live in Pennsylvania.

Martin said Kernan is enrolled in a paralegal studies program and is recovering from an April 2003 motorcycle accident that required him to have two surgeries. "He has 14 screws in his leg," Martin said.

He suggested Kernan should be held at a hospital, not a jail, noting "he has concerns about being confined to a small room."

"He's also a little bit afraid of police," Martin added.

Kernan is due back in court Jan. 10.
 
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