Thursday, July 18, 2024

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan at a Wednesday press conference about deaths in Waltham. (Image: YouTube)

Cambridge resident Roderick Jackson was killed with Waltham police officer Paul Tracey in a Wednesday driving incident. The violence led to a New Hampshire man being held without bail after a court appearance Thursday in Waltham District Court.

At approximately 4 p.m., Peter Simon, 54, of Woodsville, was driving a pickup truck east on Totten Pond Road in Waltham when he pulled to the side of the road, then suddenly turned back into the roadway to try a U-turn, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Waltham chief of police Kevin O’Connell said Wednesday. He hit a vehicle traveling eastbound, but kept driving for approximately a quarter-mile before fatally striking Tracey, 58, a Waltham resident, and Jackson, 36.

The victims had been working at a National Grid work site at the time – Jackson on the job itself and Tracey on a detail meant to keep the workers safe in traffic. Two other National Grid employees were injured, too; one who was taken to the hospital with Jackson was treated and released, officials said.

The incident was “an unimaginable tragedy,” Ryan said at a press conference. “These two men were doing their job at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when they were killed. Crashes like this happen far too often.”

Jackson

After hitting the victims, Simon drove on and hit “multiple other vehicles” before abandoning the truck and fleeing on foot. When he encountered another Waltham officer who had responded to the scene, he pulled a knife on the officer before stealing his police cruiser and again fleeing, officials said in a press release. Simon crashed the cruiser on Winter Street and fled a final time before being arrested by an officer after a brief foot chase, authorities said.

Simon was charged with two counts of manslaughter, assault with a dangerous weapon, armed robbery, failure to stop for police, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, larceny of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident after causing personal injury and death, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident after causing property damage, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, a marked-lanes violation and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and will be held until a dangerousness hearing Dec. 14, court officials said.

The suspect has a long criminal record that includes pleading guilty to charges of driving under the influence, second-degree assault and disobeying an officer, WBUR reported. He has several criminal cases dating back to 2009.

Jackson was remembered as a “great father” with great ambition by fellow National Grid worker Joe Garcia in remarks to the Boston Herald. “This person took it all away from him,” Garcia said, referring to Simon.

The victim’s brother, Manuel Asprilla-Hassan, was quoted by WBUR talking outside the courthouse after a packed hearing. “He meant everything to me. He meant everything to everybody. The city of Cambridge knows who he is. When everybody forgets about him, we will remember,” Asprilla-Hassan said, referring to the charged driver, in remarks quoted by the station. “This is a nightmare that I’m living in.”