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Police Kill Man Accused of Killing Three Others

January 1, 1988

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) _ A man with a history of drug charges went on a shooting rampage in two communities, killing three men and critically wounding two before police shot him dead, authorities said Thursday.

Three of the shootings occurred in a neighborhood where one resident said drugs are sold ″all hours of the night.″

Rafael Rodriguez, 38, was shot by an officer Wednesday night after shooting twice at the officer in a gasoline station parking lot, police said. Police said Rodriguez was putting gasoline in a car after driving from Nashua to Londonderry and back and shooting five men once each in the head with a revolver.

Nashua Police Chief William Quigley said the shootings were apparently drug-related but he could not specify a motive.

″When someone does something like this, God only knows what’s going through his mind,″ he said at a news conference Thursday.

A witness to one of the Nashua shootings said Rodriguez apparently tried to collect on a debt.

″He said that the guy who lived in this apartment owed him money,″ Lorene Flores, who lives on the block where two shootings occurred, told WMTW-TV of Auburn, Maine. ″(Rodriguez) told him to come out and he wouldn’t come out. Then he started the shooting.″

Ken Lynch, acting police chief in Londonderry, said Rodriguez apparently was a distant relative of one of the men he killed in Londonderry, Nicanor Rodriguez, 59, a shipping superviser at an apple orchard where two of the shootings occurred. Lynch and an orchard worker who declined to be identified said the gunman worked at the orchard more than five years ago and had visited since.

″He used to come around here, like, once a year, twice a year, pick up apples and say hello,″ the employee said. ″He was always very friendly.″

Nashua police Maj. Clifton Largy said Rodriguez was believed to have known some of the victims, but he said he could not be more specific.

Police could not say if Rodriguez had a job, and would say little about his record except that he had multiple brushes with the law, some involving drugs. Nashua Police Lt. Donald Hamel said Rodriguez was indicted twice in 1987 on cocaine-possession charges.

Police said that between 5 p.m. Wednesday and his death about three hours later, Rodriguez shot two men in the drug-ridden French Hill neighborhood of Nashua, drove 10 miles to Londonderry and shot two more, then drove back to the same Nashua neighborhood and claimed his fifth victim.

Hamel said there were witnesses to three of the shootings.

People interviewed in French Hill asked not to be identified for fear they might face reprisal.

A woman interviewed on a street by the Telegraph in Nashua said Rodriguez was married and had about six children, some by a previous marriage.

″I knew he was crazy,″ she said. ″Nobody would mess with his kids. But I never thought it would get to the point where he would kill somebody. He wasn’t the type to do that.″

A store clerk in French Hill told The Associated Press that Rodriguez, a long-time Nashua resident, was born in Puerto Rico. She said he came into her store Wednesday morning to make a quick purchase and ″looked very quiet.″

Residents of French Hill, once Franco-American but now mainly Hispanic, said the gunplay was inevitable.

″They’re selling (drugs) all hours of the night there,″ said one man. ″I’ve seen people fight there. (The shooting spree) was only a matter of time with all the drugs and guns around.″

A grocery store clerk who also asked to remain anonymous had a similar view.

″It’s not like it’s big news - people aren’t that worked up about it,″ she told the Telegraph. ″They’ve seen SWAT (police Special Weapons and Tactics) teams many times up here. People learn to live with it.″

Nashua, a fast-growing city of about 70,000 on the Massachusetts border, is part of a southern New Hampshire area described by the state’s top federal prosecutor as a drug warehouse for eastern Massachusetts.

The Telegraph said authorities made more than 40 drug arrests in two major raids and other smaller ones in French Hill in 1987. After one big raid, Largy told the paper that one-third of the houses on Tolles Street, where two victims were shot Wednesday, were used for drug trafficking.

Quigley said that by the time an officer encountered Rodriguez at the gas station, police had identified him as their suspect.

The officer tried to arrest him, but Quigley said Rodriguez fired two shots at the officer.

″The officer gave him every available opportunity to surrender and he continued to shoot,″ the chief said.

He said the officer, whom he would not identify, was not hit.

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