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Tense Swat Scene Ends Peacefully

Aaron Curtis acurtis@lowellsun.comMay 23, 2019

LOWELL — Roughly two hours after the final armored vehicle pulled away from the Gibson Street home Wednesday, a relieved Lowell Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson stressed this was a situation that could have ended badly.

A massive police response was needed after a 40-year-old man, armed with a knife, barricaded himself inside the basement of his Gibson Street home at around 1:30 p.m., police said in a press release.

The suspect, who police identified as Curtis Howell, had just confronted a man with a knife, leading to the police response, police said.

Members of the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council SWAT team were called in to address the ensuing standoff. It lasted approximately four and a half hours and ended without any injuries.

“We are very fortunate we were able to get this person out safely and have a successful conclusion,” Richardson said.

After the situation was resolved, a woman sat in her car outside the home, now cleared of the dozens of emergency responders. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she is a relative of the suspect and that he had suffered a “nervous breakdown.”

She added he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder, but she is unsure of the source of that condition.

According to Richardson, the incident unfolded Wednesday when a man came over to the Gibson Street residence to do work on a vehicle. Howell then confronted the worker with a knife, police said. Police were called to the scene and arrived to find Howell locked inside the home’s basement.

While barricaded inside the home in the Highlands neighborhood, the suspect poured a flammable fluid on the basement floor, Richardson said. This led to concern Howell would ignite the structure and himself, leading to the response of Lowell firefighters.

As the rush-hour traffic flowed around them, Lowell police blocked off Gibson Street, between Pine and Westford streets. Packs of people gathered at the intersections in an attempt to find out what was happening.

Negotiators and members of the NEMLEC SWAT gathered in a parking lot near the intersection of Pine and Gibson streets, before converging on the home.

Howell’s mother was safely removed from the residence and around 6 p.m. a decision was made by law enforcement to enter the structure. A chemical spray was deployed inside the home to assist in subduing the suspect.

“Eventually he gave up, and we were able to get him out of there,” Richardson said.

Howell was placed under arrest on charges of assault by means of a dangerous weapon (knife), police said in the release. According to Richardson, the 40-year-old will receive the treatment he needs to address his mental- health issues.

The police superintendent also repeatedly praised the work of Lowell police, NEMLEC and the responding emergency crews for resolving the situation without further harm. He referenced their training and professionalism.

“I think police across the country are seeing an uptick in mental health issues and substance abuse problems, so we need to put people in place and train our officers to be able to deal with it,” Richardson said. “That’s exactly what we showed today — that the training did help.”

The worker who came to the Gibson Street home to work on the vehicle did not suffer any injuries, according to Lowell police Capt. James Hodgdon.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis

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