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911 Call


In the summer of 2002, Sergeant Dale Prentiss, a Shirley Police Officer, responded to a 911 call at a residence. On that night, the owner’s son, Jake , shared a pint of brandy and two 32 oz. beers with two women at his residence. Soon after, Jake,¹ now drunk, began harassing the women, who then proceeded to leave. Jake followed the women in his truck. The women called 911. ¹

Sgt. Prentiss was dispatched to investigate the 911 call. Upon arrival at the residence, Jake was still in his truck in the driveway of the premises. When Sgt. Prentiss went to speak to him, Jake opened the door to his truck, and using a .44 Magnum owned by his father, Richard, shot Sgt. Prentiss from approximately 12 feet away, hitting him in the left side of his torso. A bullet ripped into Prentiss' abdomen, but in the frenzy of the moment, he remained on his feet and found cover away from his cruiser. When Jake approached the cruiser, Sgt. Prentiss returned fire striking the assailant twice, bringing him to the ground.

On the night of the incident, Jake was not licensed to use a firearm. Jake admitted that he had taken the gun out of a storage box, using the key provided by his father earlier in the week, and had placed the .44 Magnum in his truck. At Jake’s criminal trial, he testified, under oath, that his father had given him the key to the storage box, and that he had taken the .44 Magnum out earlier in the week, but had not returned it back to the storage box. Jake testified that, instead, he put the gun in his truck behind the seat. After a jury trial, Jake was convicted of attempted murder of Sgt. Prentiss and was sentenced to 18 to 20 years for Attempted Murder of a Police Officer.

Following the trial of Jake, the District Attorney’s office charged the father, Richard, with improperly storing the .44 Magnum. Although he was offered a chance to plead to the crime without having to do any time, the father chose to proceed to a jury trial. Of note, the Court was shocked when the father volunteered that it was he and not his son, who had shot Sgt. Prentiss. This, of course, conflicted with the prior conviction of his son, which had already taken place and the videotape from the backup cruiser showing the son lying in the driveway with the weapon near his hand and the father coming out of his house to attend to his son. Richard was found guilty of improperly storing the .44 Magnum and sentenced to six months in a house of correction.

As a result of the shooting and the father’s negligent failure to properly secure his weapon, Sgt. Dale Prentiss sustained a gun shot wound to his left abdomen. The bullet ricocheted off his ribs, spine and pelvis and lodged in his right iliac bone. He sustained extensive internal abdominal injuries, underwent several surgeries, was in ICU for sixteen days, as well as being placed in a medically induced coma for five days. With a little luck and excellent medical care, Sgt. Prentiss survived. Sgt. Prentiss was in excellent health at the time of the accident, a fact which contributed significantly to his ability to withstand and recover from the incident. With the exception of a disability resulting from the internal injuries suffered, he is doing reasonably well.

In 2003, Sgt. Prentiss was retired from the Shirley Police Department on a disability pension. His greatest loss, as he tells it, is the loss of his twenty-two year career as a police officer. He loved being a police officer and helping other police officers to do their best and have a better life. As an area vice president of MassCop, he was able to further fulfill his goal to help his fellow police officers by, in part, traveling around his area and educating police officers. He had to resign as the area vice president when he was unable to work full time as a police officer. Sgt. Prentiss received numerous awards recognizing his action under fire including the state's highest law enforcement award, the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor.

After years of legal wrangling and protracted negotiations, Richard’s insurance company finally agreed to pay its policy limit of $500,000 to Sgt. Prentiss and his mother. Although no amount of money can ever compensate Dale Prentiss and his family for the physical and emotional suffering they went through and the loss of his career, it is hoped the substantial compensation will provide some comfort to them in the coming years. It was a privilege to have represented Sgt. Prentiss on this important case and to begin establishing precedent, in the event that such a similar claim ever needs to be made in the future again.

A valuable lesson can be learned from this case. God forbid another officer is ever shot again in the future, it will be very helpful, in addition to getting that officer the best medical treatment available and collecting evidence to successfully prosecute the shooter, to collect evidence early on about the weapon, its owner and where it had been kept. Besides aiding in the criminal prosecution of the owner of the weapon for failing to properly secure it, such information will be helpful to building a civil case against the owner of the weapon.

An injured officer should always consider seeking a free consultation to determine his or her rights, benefits, and the probability of making a successful claim. I am always available by telephone, email or a personal meeting. Once I evaluate the case and the officer’s chances of success, the decision whether to go forward rests with the officer. The decision when to return to work rests, as it should, with the officer and his or her doctor.

As with all claims involving an officer's injury on duty, there are no guarantees. Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes, and issues that arise under Massachusetts General Laws c. 41, §100 and §111F, workers compensation laws and related statutes.

When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front and while the case is pending. He or she only need pay for legal services and expenses at the end of the case, if we successfully collect money on the claim. We typically will receive one-third of the money collected. In the off-chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our legal services.

¹ In order to protect the privacy of the Defendants, their names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. Sgt. Prentiss was glad to share his story with fellow officers in order to educate them about their rights when injured on duty.


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