LYNN — The Essex County District Attorney’s office has found that the November 2016 fatal shooting of an unarmed 41-year-old Everett man with a lengthy criminal record by an on-duty Lynn Police officer was justified.
Michael McInnis was shot and killed by Lynn Police Officer John Bernard after authorities said he robbed the Lynnway Gulf gas station at 525 Lynnway during the early morning hours of Nov. 29, 2016, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.
Prosecutors said the shooting occurred after McInnis repeatedly refused police officers’ request to show hands following the robbery, walking toward police with his hands in his pockets. McInnis had run from the store and was recognized as matching the description of the robbery suspect by officers while he was walking on the Lynnway.
The DA’s office said McInnis closed the distance between himself and Bernard to about seven to 10 feet, continuing to ignore commands to show his hands. Bernard, out of fear of safety for his life and surrounding officers, fired twice, striking McInnis in the chest. McInnis was later pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital.
No weapon was found on McInnis or in the vicinity of the shooting. Former Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, the current Essex County sheriff, said in the days following the shooting that the information police received from a caller was that there was an armed robbery and that the subject was armed with a handgun and had threatened to shoot the store clerk. Coppinger said at the time that was the information officers were relying upon.
“Based on this investigation, I find that Officer John Bernard, having been informed that Mr. McInnis was armed, believed his life was in danger as Mr. McInnis walked toward him quickly while refusing to show his hands,” said District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett in a statement. “For this reason, Officer Bernard bears no criminal responsibility for shooting Mr. McInnis.”
According to the investigation, McInnis walked into the gas station shortly after 3:30 a.m. and grabbed a store clerk, who had been working alone, by the back of the shirt, dragged him around the counter and shoved his face into the cash register while yelling “give me all the money.” After the clerk handed him three $50 bills, McInnis continued assaulting the clerk and shouted “give me the money or I’m going to shoot you.” The clerk fought back and was struck repeatedly by McInnis.
The fight lasted for more than a minute before the clerk was finally able to push McInnis out of the store. The clerk reported the incident to police and relayed that the suspect said he had a gun, according to the investigation.
Five police officers responded to the robbery and McInnis was recognized as matching the suspect’s description by Bernard and two other police officers, Devon Dupuis and Joshua Seaman, who were driving in two marked cruisers on the southbound side of the Lynnway, according to the investigation.
“It should be noted that McInnis had a decades-long history of violence,” the report reads. “He is a suspect in a robbery that took place earlier the same morning of this incident.
“His extensive history also includes an arrest in Malden in the summer of 2015. During that arrest, he threatened a police officer stating that he was going to take the officer’s gun and shoot him and other officers. He added that if he could not get the officer’s gun, he would do something to make the officers shoot him.”
Bernard was also found to be legally justified in the fatal shooting of 33-year-old Randolph McClain on Jan. 29, 2016.
In that case, Bernard, Seaman, and another officer, Michael McEachern, fired their weapons at McClain — they had been attempting to serve five arrest warrants to McClain, who was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Lynn Police Domestic Violence Unit for reports of escalating violence to his former girlfriend and members of her family, prosecutors said.
The investigation found McClain failed to comply with the officers’ repeated orders to drop his weapon, and also pointed the weapon at officers and a passing motorist whom he car-jacked. Blodgett said in a previous statement that when Bernard, McEachern and Seaman fired their weapons, they believed they, their fellow officers, and the public were in imminent danger of being seriously injured or killed by McClain, and therefore, the shooting of McClain does not constitute a criminal act.
Bernard, Seaman, McEachern and Officer Matthew Coppinger, who also responded to the 2016 incident, were awarded the Medal of Valor at the Trooper George L. Hanna Memorial Awards for Bravery Ceremony at the State House in October.