On Saturday, a retired Lynn police officer badmouthed Denis Reynoso, the Iraq War veteran killed by Lynn police in front of his five-year-old son last year, in a profanity-laden Facebook rant with several grammatical errors. John Vautour is a former Lynn police officer who retired on May 14, 2012, according to the department's 2012 Annual Report.
After a recent Bay State Examiner article about Reynoso's family, friends, and supporters protesting and mourning on the one year anniversary of his death was posted to Facebook, Vautour left two comments under it.
“Oh yeah, this is the Fucker who took the police officers gun from him and shot at them,” he wrote.
The three police officers involved in the shooting claimed that they entered Reynoso' home on a disturbance call and he grabbed one of their weapons and managed to fire off two shots, forcing them to shoot him. Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett ruled the shooting as justified, but the story told by the police has been controversial. Family members, friends, and other supporters have held at least half a dozen protests against the shooting, including one that was attended by more than a hundred people.
There was no physical evidence linking Reynoso to the gun he allegedly fired. The DNA test performed on the gun was inconclusive and investigators did not find any gunshot residue on Reynoso’s hands.
Furthermore, the police reports and interviews with the three officers, which were obtained by The Bay State Examiner earlier this year by making a public records request, contained several contradictions.
Police officers have sometimes falsely accused people of going for their weapons to justify police brutality. For instance, police in New Jersey were indicted earlier this year after they were caught on video screaming at a man to stop going for one of their guns as they beat him for no apparent reason.
There will probably never be definitive answers about the Reynoso shooting due to the lack of video evidence, but Vautour expressed confidence that they were innocent of wrongdoing. “[B]efore you shitheads post stuff like this know the truth!!!” he wrote.
In a second comment, Vautour stated that people only criticize police officers out of jealousy and that only police officers are allowed to criticize the police.
“You guys must have failed the test to become a police officer!! That's why you bash us!” he wrote. “Nobody likes to be told what to do, so if you don't like it, study harder and pass the civil service test and become a police officer. If not then shut the fuck up and stop your bitching!”
Vautour said he believes the officers were justified in killing Reynoso because he knows them personally. A picture from the Lynn police's 2012 annual report shows Vautour with John Bernard, the officer whose gun was allegedly taken by Reynoso.
Vatour also expressed belief in the “thin blue line,” a symbol many police officers use to represent the idea that police should unite in solidarity when they face opposition or accusations of misconduct.
Vautour's comments are a prime illustration of why police who kill should be investigated by independent agencies, rather than by fellow law enforcement officials.
Currently in Massachusetts, evidence in police shooting cases is generally gathered by state police investigators as well as, to some extent, police officers from the same department as the shooter. The decision as to whether or not a shooting is justified is made by the local district attorney, who works with the police department on a regular basis. A document obtained by The Bay State Examiner earlier this year shows that the three officers involved in the Reynoso shooting worked with the district attorney's office in hundreds of cases.
Since at least 2002, district attorneys in Massachusetts have never prosecuted police officers for fatal shootings, no matter what the circumstances of the shooting were.
Peter Alvarez, a family friend of Reynoso who recently graduated from Boston University School of Law, spoke with The Bay State Examiner about the need for independent investigations on the one year anniversary of Reynoso's death.
“I don’t think the police officers should be the investigators and the evidence gatherers,” he said. “Municipalities should be able to pay the cost of a private investigator to do the investigation for the family.”
Alvarez also spoke about the need for police to be outfitted with body cameras. If the police involved in the Reynoso had body cameras, the issue of whether or not he grabbed a weapon could have been resolved in minutes. Instead, Vautour's comments aside, we will probably never know the truth.
Watch our video about the one year memorial march for Denis Reynoso here: