‘It’s meant to save lives, not take lives’: Details about Marshfield police’s armored vehicle involved in deadly crash

Local News

A 79-year-old woman was killed when she pulled in front of the armored police vehicle, the DA’s preliminary investigation showed.

In this July 16, 2014, file photo, a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle sits in front of police headquarters in Watertown, Connecticut. Steven Valenti / The Republican-American via AP, File

Marshfield police have confirmed that a military-style, armored vehicle previously owned by the federal government was involved in a crash on Monday that killed a 79-year-old town resident.

Initially, the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that Michelle Freeman died after her car and a “tan police vehicle” collided on Plain Street. The officer driving the police vehicle was uninjured.

Marshfield Police Chief Phillip Tavares told Boston.com that the vehicle is called a MRAP, or mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. His department acquired it from the federal government in 2020 through a program meant to distribute excess military equipment to local police departments. Marshfield police paid $4,900 in shipping fees but otherwise received the vehicle, valued at over $700,000, free of charge.

They have since repurposed it as a rescue vehicle, Tavares said.

“It’s a big, scary looking thing, but it’s meant to save lives, not take lives,” he said. 

He said the MRAP can travel on uneven terrain and into deep saltwater, which could be useful for rescues particularly in the Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock area of Marshfield. 

“This provides protection for the people driving it and enables us to get to areas where regular vehicles can’t get to in an effort to rescue people,” Tavares said.

It could also be used in an active shooter situation, he said.

Fatal crash investigation ongoing

The Plymouth County DA said their preliminary investigation shows that Freeman pulled her vehicle in front of the MRAP while turning left in an intersection. 

Freeman was transported to South Shore Hospital after the crash, where she was pronounced dead, the Plymouth County DA said.

“Our whole community is upset over it,” Tavares said, “but this isn’t a story about an armored vehicle causing something. This is a tragic story about a woman that lost her life.”

The investigation into the crash has been transferred to the Suffolk County DA due to a conflict of interest, which Tavares said is standard procedure. The Suffolk County DA’s Office said on Wednesday the investigation is still ongoing.

‘Thank god my officer was driving that’

While officers don’t need a specialized license to operate the MRAP, only two of the officers on the force are trained to drive it, including the officer driving it on Monday, Tavares said. That officer had taken it out for a routine maintenance drive ahead of Tuesday night’s storm.

“Thank God my officer was driving that and not a different vehicle because we might be looking at two fatalities,” Tavares said.