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News / Nation & World

Officer and utility worker killed in hit-and-run crash; suspect also accused of stealing cruiser

By Associated Press
Published: December 7, 2023, 8:00am

WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — A pickup truck driver in a suburb of Boston is accused of crashing into a police officer and a utility employee at a work site, killing them, then pulling a knife on another officer before stealing his cruiser and crashing, law enforcement officials said.

Two other utility workers were injured in the initial crash Wednesday afternoon in Waltham, about 10 miles west of Boston, and “multiple other vehicles” were struck by the truck before it was abandoned, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a news release.

“Clearly what happened … is an unimaginable tragedy,” Ryan said at a news conference. “These two men were doing their job at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when they were killed and crashes like this happen far too often.”

After the cruiser crashed, police said they arrested the driver after a brief foot pursuit.

Peter Simon, 54, of Woodsville, New Hampshire, appeared in court Thursday and was arraigned on multiple charges, including two counts of manslaughter, armed robbery, assault, and leaving the scene of an accident. A lawyer entered not guilty pleas on his behalf and a hearing date was scheduled for Dec. 14.

The events unfolded after Simon suddenly attempted to make a U-turn, striking a vehicle, prosecutors said. The truck continued for about a quarter mile before Waltham police Officer Paul Tracey, 58, and a 36-year-old National Grid worker were struck. Tracey was working a police detail at a utility work site, a trench that was marked by orange cones and signs and yellow flashing lights, prosecutors said in court. The truck also struck a National Grid truck.

The truck kept going and struck other vehicles before Simon got out and fled, encountering another Waltham officer who was responding to the crash. Simon turned on the officer, brandishing a knife, before taking his cruiser and driving off, prosecutors said.

Other officers pursued Simon and tried to stop him, but each time, he would veer his car into an oncoming officer, prosecutors said. He ultimately crashed and was arrested following a brief foot chase.

Tracey and the utility worker were taken to a hospital, where they died from their injuries, prosecutors said.

Tracey was a 28-year veteran of the Waltham Police Department.

“He was a compassionate police officer, and always looked out for the underdog,” Chief Kevin O’Connell said at the news conference. He was an amazing husband, a loving father, and a friend to all.”