Baker reiterates support for death penalty after officer’s killing

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STATE HOUSE — Following the killing of an Auburn police officer, and a shootout that resulted in a dead suspect and a wounded State Police trooper, Gov. Charlie Baker said a different approach to criminal justice might be warranted and he believes police killers should be executed.

Jorge Zambrano, 35, reportedly died in a shootout after allegedly killing Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. early Sunday morning. He reportedly fired on police who discovered him in a neighbor’s closet Sunday.

News media have reported on Zambrano’s extensive criminal record, and questions have arisen in the courts and with the governor. In an interview on Boston Herald Radio on Tuesday Baker wondered “why this guy was free in the first place?”

“We should make adjustments if we need to, especially with respect to how this guy despite his rap sheet and everything else managed to be sort of slapped on the wrist and had his last two trips to court continued without a finding, which is just odd, and led to some horrible consequences,” Baker said.

The governor also cautioned that as more information comes out, it can be difficult to separate fact from speculation.

Paula Carey, the chief justice of the Trial Court, expressed “deepest condolences” to Tarentino’s family and said the Trial Court was seeking to determine whether the justice system should have taken more action on the man who allegedly killed him.

“Jorge Zambrano had both past and pending cases in the court system including serving a seven year State Prison sentence,” Carey said in a statement. “We are carefully examining all of the circumstances regarding Jorge Zambrano’s criminal history in order to determine whether additional systemic steps should have been taken in his case.”

Lawmakers, the governor and the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court are backing a comprehensive study of criminal justice in Massachusetts. This session lawmakers removed a barrier for drug offenders to go back to driving after serving their sentences and imposed stricter penalties on those convicted of trafficking in the opiate fentanyl.

Baker said the Auburn police were “shattered” by the killing of their colleague and noted that police regularly put themselves in potentially deadly circumstances.

The death penalty was outlawed by the Supreme Judicial Court three decades ago. Baker said he supports imposing capital punishment on murderers who kill police.

“I don’t know if it would pass but I’ve always said I would support the death penalty for people that shoot and kill a police officer,” Baker said. “I don’t’ think that’s a close call.”

Baker supported imposing the death penalty on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber who with his older brother killed MIT police officer Sean Collier in 2013. Tsarnaev was sentenced to death in federal court last spring. His brother died in an exchange with police in Watertown.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service