September 4, 2015 / 8:20 PM / 4 years ago

Massachusetts police officer to be charged with hoax shooting claim

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts police officer who sent a Boston suburb into lockdown earlier this week after reporting that an unknown assailant shot at his patrol cruiser will face criminal charges for allegedly making up the whole thing, police said on Friday.

The officer, 24-year-old Bryan Johnson of the Millis Police Department allegedly called a dispatcher on Wednesday to say a white man in a maroon truck had opened fire on him, causing him to crash the sport-utility vehicle, which erupted in flames.

Local and state police swarmed into the town of 8,000 people about 20 miles southeast of Boston, launching a manhunt and ordering schools locked down.

But forensic analysis of the cruiser showed the only bullets that hit it came from Johnson’s service weapon, police said.

“We have determined that the officer’s story was fabricated, specifically that he fired shots at his own cruiser as part of a plan to concoct a story that he was fired upon,” said police in a statement.

It could not be immediately learned whether Johnson had retained a lawyer.

Johnson began work in the department as a dispatcher in 2014, before being brought on as a part-time town officer in June. He was scheduled to begin training to become a full-time officer in coming weeks, officers said in the statement.

Millis Police Detective Domenic Tiberi said officers were “shocked” as Johnson had seemed dependable.

“He is a decent kid, quiet, but friends with a lot of the guys here,” Tiberi said Friday. “It is beyond comprehension why somebody would go to the lengths to do this.”

Officers have not yet identified a motive.

Johnson was terminated from the department immediately, and now faces charges that he misled a criminal investigation and communicated false information to emergency services. He also faces malicious destruction of property and unlawful discharge of a firearm charges.

He could be arraigned as early as Tuesday, officials said.

Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Lambert

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