Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

June 20, 2013

SWAT called in for pitchfork attack

Judge orders evaluation of resident

By Dustin Luca
dluca@andovertownsman.com

---- — A full SWAT response was needed to apprehend a man who lashed out at three visitors with a lead pipe and pitchfork near South Elementary School last Friday, June 14, according to police.

Thomas Croteau, 54, of 67 Woburn St., is being held without bail after his arraignment Monday in Lawrence District Court on three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two individual counts of assault and battery, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A plea of not guilty was entered on his behalf, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Carrie Kimball-Monahan.

Croteau was ordered committed to Bridgewater State Hospital for 30 days for a psychiatric evaluation. His case is scheduled for a status review on July 16.

Police were called to Croteau’s home at around 3:30 p.m. Friday after two behavioral health crisis workers, escorted by a family member of Croteau’s, attempted to visit his home to evaluate him, according to an Andover Police report written by Patrolman Robin Cataldo.

When the two workers entered the home with the family member, Croteau “came down the stairs swinging a pipe at the workers,” at which point the relative “disarmed Thomas and pushed him away,” according to the report.

“Then Thomas began throwing glass bowls at (his relative), hitting him in the head,” the report states.

The workers and Croteau’s relative then ran out of the home, at which point he “began chasing them with a pitchfork,” according to the report. The three fled the scene and called police.

After police arrived, they surrounded the home and attempted to get Croteau to come out. After several failed attempts, Andover Police Sgt. Mark Higginbottom requested the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council send in a SWAT team to apprehend Croteau, according to the report.

“He refused to speak with us or even come out of the house,” Andover Police Lt. Edward Guy said. “Because of that, we have to take all precautions, so we ended up calling in (the SWAT team).”

After NEMLEC arrived, part of Woburn Street was shut down and a staging area was established at South Elementary School, located across the street from Croteau’s home, according to scanner reports.

More than an hour later, about two hours after the initial call was made to police, the SWAT team was able to apprehend Croteau and end the standoff peacefully, according to Guy.

There were no threats to others communicated throughout the ordeal and nobody else was put at risk, according to Guy. Rumors circulating around the scene that explosives may have been involved were unsubstantiated, he said.

Guy characterized Croteau as “emotionally disturbed.”

“We have had prior dealings with him, so we’re familiar with him,” Guy said. “But it had been approximately a year since we had any dealing with him.”

After his arrest, Croteau was taken to an area hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He was held without bail after his arraignment Monday on the five charges.

A court document ordering Croteau’s commitment to Bridgewater State Hospital said that he “defecated in his trousers, appeared maybe responding to internal stimuli, threatened to `dropping pants and (defecate) on the judge’” in court.

The order says the commitment is necessary because of continuing doubt that Croteau is competent to stand trial. The order also certifies that criminal responsibility is in doubt “by reason of the defendant’s possible mental illness or defect.”