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DA: Police killing in Orange raid justified

Drug suspect’s girlfriend indicted on trafficking charge

ORANGE — The July shooting death of a 23-year-old Orange man at the hands of state police has been deemed justified by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

On July 3, at about 5 a.m., local and state police assigned to the Northwestern District Anti-Crime Task Force served a no-knock warrant on the second floor of 18 Mechanic St., Orange. Police believed the residents had been dealing prescription painkillers.

Corey Navarette, 23, a resident of the house and one of the warrant’s subjects, was allegedly armed with a rifle, and was shot dead by a state trooper during the raid.

A recently released report by the NWDA’s office concluded that trooper Michael Baker’s use of deadly force was justified in the interest of officer safety.

Baker has been a state police trooper for 20 years, according to the report, and the raid is the only time he fired his service weapon in the line of duty.

The investigation was conducted by the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the NWDA’s office. Though it may appear to some readers to be a conflict of interest, Massachusetts General Law says that state police have jurisdiction over such an investigation.

Jessica Dennis-Ramirez, Navarette’s girlfriend and the other subject of the investigation, has been arraigned in Superior Court on charges including trafficking in a Class B substance over 36 grams.

She was also arrested in Orange the day after the raid, and charged with possession of heroin, and driving without a license. The report stated that she was found with 12 syringes and two bags of heroin while being booked for that arrest. The case, in Orange District Court, is ongoing.

The raid

According to the report, Baker was one of three troopers with the Special Tactical Operations Team that made initial entry into the apartment. Baker was the “third” trooper, providing cover for the other two troopers as they breached and cleared rooms in the apartment, read the report.

The report stated that the troopers were dressed in gear identifying them as police, and that they shouted “State police, search warrant,” several times upon entering the apartment.

When the three came to a front bedroom, they encountered Navarette and Dennis-Ramirez, lying in bed, according to the report.

In Navarette’s arms was a semi-automatic Stag Arms 5.56 caliber rifle, pointed at Baker, according to the report.

The report says that Baker twice told Navarette to drop the weapon and he did not. Baker then fired three shots from his 5.56 caliber Colt M4 handgun, two of which struck Navarette, according to the report. Upon recovery, the rifle was found to be loaded with 25 .223 cartridges in a 30-round clip.

EMTs on scene for the raid tried began administering aid to Navarette, but he was pronounced dead at Athol Memorial Hospital that same day.

Dennis-Ramirez was struck by metal fragments when the shots were fired and taken to Athol Memorial Hospital for abrasions, swelling and other minor injuries on her face and back.

The raid netted more than 150 assorted pills — most contained the painkiller oxycodone — a scale, $4,385.25 in cash, a semi-automatic rifle and pistol both legally owned by Navarette, a double-edged knife and assorted ammunition.

In a later interview, Dennis-Ramirez first told investigators that she couldn’t see if Navarette was holding a weapon at the time of the shooting because Navarette jumped and hid behind the bed when shots were fired. Later in the 27-minute interview she said that he was not holding a gun, according to the report. She also said that Navarette was standing at the end of the bed when he was shot, but the medical examiner’s wrote that the trajectory of the bullet wounds was consistent with someone shot while lying down, according to the report.

She said the two had gone to bed only an hour before the raid, and that a threatening phone message from the previous day had them both on edge. Dennis-Ramirez said the two were awakened by loud noises caused when police entered the dwelling.

She said that she heard police announce themselves when they entered the apartment, and put her hands up, though she couldn’t be sure if her boyfriend believed the people in his apartment were actually police, according to the report.

The report states that several controlled substances were found in Dennis-Ramirez’s system at the time of the interview. Due to this, and her contradicting accounts of events, her statement was deemed unreliable by investigators.

The warrant

The day before the shooting, Athol Police Officer Jared Mousseau applied for a warrant to search the residence for Percocet and other painkillers, which he believed the residents were dealing.

According to the report, Mousseau’s application was based on three controlled buys of painkillers, conducted through an informant. The report said the informant would call Dennis-Ramirez to set up a buy, then meet Navarette at the house or nearby, where the informant gave him cash for pills.

Two other informants involved in the investigation told police that Navarette owned firearms and had stated that he wasn’t afraid to use them, according to the report.

This led Mousseau to seek a “no-knock” warrant, meaning that police could break down the door and enter the apartment without first knocking. In his application, Mousseau stated that a no-knock warrant would give the subjects less time to arm themselves or attempt to destroy any contraband.

Though Navarette reportedly already had the weapon loaded, in hand and aimed at the doorway where Baker stood, the report states that, if the warrant was served in the daylight or without the “no-knock” provision, Navarette may have had an extra “5 or 10 seconds” to arm himself, which could have resulted in injury or death of officers.

The entire NWDA report on the shooting may be viewed at goo.gl/wU2VgO.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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