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Town Mourns, Two More Captured in Police Chief’s Death

February 2, 1994

PAXTON, Mass. (AP) _ Two men were arrested Wednesday in the death of a police chief who was shot as he investigated a burglary in a neighboring town.

Chief Robert Mortell was chasing suspects on foot in nearby Holden when he was shot in the chest Tuesday during a gunfight, state police said.

One suspect was arrested after the shooting and two others were charged Wednesday. All three pleaded innocent to murder and other charges.

In a coffee shop and supermarket near Paxton’s town common, small groups of residents gathered Wednesday to help each other cope with the loss of their chief.

″He was more than an authority figure. He was a security figure. When you lose a security figure, it sends shock waves through the community,″ said Joseph W. McKay, chief selectman.

The central Massachusetts town of 4,100 residents is unaccustomed to violence - only eight assaults were reported last year.

Mortell lived most of his 38 years in Paxton. He was a husband and father of three children, ages 7 to 12. He also kept four dogs at home, including the department’s bloodhound.

He was remembered as a shirtsleeves chief who refused to let his officers do all the leg work.

″He led the charge,″ said Robert P. Sheehan, Paxton’s retired police chief, who hired Mortell.

Mortell had headed the town force, which has four other full-time officers and seven part-time officers, since 1989.

He graduated in May from Anna Maria College with a degree in criminal justice and was working towards a master’s degree.

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