Suspect in Auburn police officer’s slaying dies in shootout

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AUBURN, Mass. (AP) — The suspect in the fatal shooting of a Massachusetts police officer died after an exchange of gunfire Sunday as authorities closed in on him inside an apartment in nearby Oxford, police said.

The man, identified as 35-year-old Jorge Zambrano, burst out of a closet and opened fire on the officers as they approached him inside the apartment, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said at a news briefing Sunday evening. Zambrano, who authorities said had a criminal history, was taken to a hospital, where he died.

A Massachusetts State trooper, also wounded, was hospitalized but was up and walking later in the evening, authorities said. The name of the 18-year veteran and former Navy Seal wasn’t released.

The manhunt began after Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino was fatally shot during a traffic stop about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Tarentino stopped the vehicle on a residential road, and the vehicle’s occupant shot the officer then fled the scene, Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis said earlier Sunday. Auburn is about 45 miles southwest of Boston.

The 42-year-old Tarentino was taken to UMass Medical Center in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead. He had been with the Auburn police force for two years and before that worked with the Leicester Police Department in his hometown.

At the news conference after the manhunt, Sluckis assured the central Massachusetts community that residents were safe and that any threat to them was over. Officials said they had “developed information” that Zambrano was at the residence in Oxford, about 7 miles south of Auburn. They said they found what they believed was his vehicle parked in the back of the building.

With Tarentino’s shooting, the manhunt got underway full force. State police divers searched a pond near the traffic stop.

“We will leave no stone unturned in our investigation to determine who was involved,” Sluckis said. He called Tarentino a “dedicated and brave public servant.”

State and local police officers lined up outside the hospital as a police vehicle, escorted by a procession, took Tarentino’s body to the state medical examiner’s office in Boston, where the vehicle was met by another large contingent of officers.

Tarentino was the second police officer to die in the line of duty in Massachusetts this year. State police Trooper Thomas Clardy was killed March 16 when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle.

Outside the Auburn police station, the American flag was lowered to half-staff. The town’s residents left bouquets of flowers and miniature American flags piled at the bottom of a stone monument dedicated to law enforcement officers who’ve been killed in the line of duty.

Residents in Tarentino’s Leicester neighborhood remembered him Sunday as a pleasant family man. Tarentino is survived by a wife and three children.

Phillip Stanikmas told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that Tarentino kept an eye out for his 91-year-old mother when she was home alone. Stanikmas said he was “distraught” when Tarentino left the Leicester Police Department because he was a “great guy.”

“I wanted him to stay in Leicester,” Stanikmas said.