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Peabody trooper honored for bravery

State Police trooper Michael Benevento was awarded the medal of valor, for bravery and courage, after resolving a standoff situation last year. Photo by Kira Horvath/Salem News.

By Jill Harmacinski
Staff writer

Armed with a 16-inch machete, the suicidal man wanted Trooper Michael Benevento to do just one thing.

"Shoot me!" he begged.

But Benevento did just the opposite. The trooper put his gun back in the holster, walked dangerously close to the 44-year-old man and just kept talking. Forty minutes later, with help from three other police officers, the distraught man was captured by police, unharmed.

This week, Benevento, 30, of Peabody, was honored for his bravery in that standoff with the Medal of Valor, the state's second-highest award for police officers who exhibit outstanding bravery and courage.

A trooper for three years, Benevento said he was humbled to stand among the most courageous during Tuesday's ceremony at the Statehouse. He noted that in his company were others far braver than him: police officers who pulled people from burning buildings, revived others close to death or nearly sacrificed their own lives to help complete strangers, he said.

Modestly, Benevento yesterday recalled April 8, 2004, when he worked with a team of officers to help someone who couldn't help himself.

At dawn that morning, Benevento was sent to an apartment building in Athol, where he's stationed some 75 miles away from his Peabody home. Wielding a machete, a deranged and intoxicated man was taunting police, asking them to kill him. He even shouted "suicide by cop," a term used for those who commit suicide by attacking police officers.

"He was yelling that over and over again," Benevento said.

As they tried to reason with the disturbed man, Benevento, with help from Trooper Michael Cashman of Dracut and two Athol officers, kept the man confined in a field near his apartment building. At gunpoint, they repeatedly ordered him to drop the machete.

"And he said, 'If you want me to drop it, you'll have to shoot me,'" Benevento said.

But Benevento wanted to make it clear he wasn't going to shoot him. That's when he put his gun away and walked toward the man. Hoping his decision diffused the situation, Benevento said the man "started getting relaxed."

Calmly, Benevento kept talking to him, telling him they weren't going to leave until he dropped the knife. Meanwhile, as Benevento distracted him, Cashman was sneaking up behind him, armed with pepper mace. But even after spraying the blinding pepper, the irrational man continued to struggle. Then he pointed the machete at his own chest.

Benevento and Cashman then tackled the man before he could harm himself or anyone else.

"I really don't see how we could have done anything differently," Benevento said of the outcome.

He said his training at the state police academy prepared him for dealing with such tense and dangerous situations. He also credited help from Cashman and Athol officers that morning. The four officers were all given the Medal of Valor on Tuesday.

Benevento was one of 42 officers and citizens honored at the state police ceremony. He was nominated for the award by one of his superior officers.

A former Bishop Fenwick hockey player, Benevento graduated from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island in 1997. Before becoming a state trooper, he worked as a federal immigration inspector. He is the son of Janice Benevento of Peabody and Nunzio Benevento of Marshfield.

His brother, Robert Benevento, is a Peabody firefighter.

Staff reporter Jill Harmacinski can be reached at (978) 338-2652 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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