AUBURN — A man believed to have fatally shot an Auburn police officer during a traffic stop just after midnight was shot and killed by police Sunday evening in an apartment in nearby Oxford after a massive daylong manhunt and an hours-long standoff, according to authorities.
Jorge Zambrano, 35, was killed by police who returned fire as he emerged from a bedroom closet shooting at them. The gunfire took place in a duplex near the corner of Wells and Watch streets, almost 20 hours after police say he killed Ronald Tarentino, a three-year-veteran of the Auburn police force.
In the gunfire exchange in the duplex, a trooper — an 18-year veteran of the State Police force — suffered non-life-threatening injuries when he was struck in the shoulder.
The wounded trooper was transferred to a Worcester hospital. Zambrano was taken to the same hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“The threat he posed to our community is now over,” said Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis .
The tense scene at the Oxford home marked the end of a chaotic day for law enforcement officials.
Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., Massachusetts State Police Colonel Richard McKeon, and Sluckis announced Tarentino’s death shortly after noon Sunday, but released no information on the suspect.
Sluckis, who spoke at the press conference, said Tarentino, 42, joined the Auburn Police Department three years ago after transferring from Leicester and that he left behind a wife and three children.
Tarentino was known by his neighbors as a all-around “good guy,” who walked his children to school, shoveled snow for the elderly, and faithfully attended church.
“The Auburn police, the town of Auburn, and the law enforcement community has suffered a tragic loss this morning,” Sluckis said. “We are devastated for his family.”
Zambrano, who shot Tarentino, has an extensive criminal history which includes stints in prison and recent arrests, authorities said.
It remained unclear why he opened fire on Tarentino, or why he fled to the Oxford duplex.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our investigation to determine who is responsible for Officer Tarentino’s death,” Sluckis said. “Every investigative avenue is being pursued fully and completely.”
Several State Police divers spent Sunday afternoon searching for the murder weapon in Stoneville Pond on Rochdale Street but found nothing, according to a trooper at the scene.
Later in the day, near the border of Leicester and Oxford just miles from the shooting site, police swarmed around the Oxford home. Traffic was blocked in all directions, and heavily armed officers were using tear gas and police dogs in attempts to gain entry into the residence.
Tarentino was shot around 12:30 a.m. Sunday on Rochdale Street, when Zambrano allegedly fired at the officer and then fled the scene, according to state and local authorities.
After the shooting, the officer was transported to UMass Memorial Medical Center, where he pronounced dead. His body was brought to the medical examiner’s office in Boston around 9:30 Sunday morning and returned to a Leicester funeral home in the late afternoon.
Through a Leicester police officer, Tarentino’s family declined comment on Sunday afternoon. The street near the family’s home on Hemlock Street was blocked off by authorities.
More than a dozen law enforcement officials stood outside the Auburn police department and saluted a procession of police vehicles, with flashing lights and sirens. The vehicles, about 30 in total, hailed from various police including Auburn, Worcester, Millbury, and State Police units.
Outside the Auburn police station, the American flag had been lowered to half-mast. Bouquets of flowers and a smaller American flag were heaped in front of a stone monument commemorating law enforcement officers who had given their lives in the course of duty.
Just before 7 a.m., officers at the scene of the shooting on Rochdale Street, a quiet side street that runs along Kinnear Brook, were seen using a dog to search and examining a gray truck parked nearby.
“I heard rapid fire gunshots and and somebody yell, ‘Get down!’” said Phil Berthiaume, who lives in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. “One police car after another… It was like bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, rapid fire, very loud.”
Throughout the state, police and fire departments shared messages of condolences on Facebook and Twitter. The posts stretched from Billerica to Cambridge to Seekonk, and included some campus police departments.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with The Auburn Police family through this difficult time. May justice be swift and harsh,” the Seekonk police department tweeted.
In a photograph posted by the Wellesley Police Department, officers lined an overpass to salute the slain officer’s body as it was escorted to the medical examiner’s office.
Near Tarentino’s Leicester home, neighbors remembered him as a “good guy,” who walked his children to the bus stop and removed snow from others’ driveways.
A man who attended church with Tarentino said the community is devestated by the death. A woman, who declined to give her name, said she “fell apart” when she heard Tarentino died.
“I hope whoever did it, they catch him and give him the worst punishment that can be given,” the woman said.
On an online website created to memorialize slain police officers, condolences poured in throughout the day.
“Thank you Officer Tarentino for your years of hard work and dedication and for paying the ultimate sacrifice for the fine folks in the great state of Massachusetts. You are a true AMERICAN HERO!!!” said a message signed by a retired sheriff in California.
A member of the Boston Housing Authority Police Department said: “Rest in peace my brother, we’ll take it from here.”