Rotch Field standoff ends with armed suspect in custody

By Camilo Fonseca, News Editor

Police arrested a male suspect at Emerson’s Rotch Field on Tuesday evening, after an hours-long standoff closed the South End athletic grounds as well as much of the surrounding neighborhood.

The armed suspect, identified as Ernest Fields, 37, arrived at Rotch Field at 9:41 a.m. brandishing a firearm, according to Boston Police Department spokesman Officer Andre Watson. Police had previously named Fields, sought for two separate incidents of threats and armed robbery, to the city’s Most Wanted list on Sep. 28.

Students received an alert from Emerson at 9:53 a.m., warning of an “armed person with unknown intent” at the college’s South End athletic green. Two hours later, the college sent another message advising community members to continue avoiding the area, while confirming that the Boston Police Department was on the scene.

As officers cordoned off the area, hostage negotiators—supported by the crisis-trained clinicians of the Boston Emergency Services Team—opened a dialogue with Fields. 

“They spoke through the majority of the day, from around 9:50 a.m. to just before 5:00 p.m.,” Watson said to The Beacon. “The negotiations were not successful.”

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“The determination was made to end peaceful communications and bring him in,” he added.

After withdrawing the negotiators and BEST clinicians, SWAT personnel deployed a series of “distractionary devices” such as flashbangs, while firing “less-lethal” rounds at the suspect. Fields dropped his loaded firearm and was taken into custody; at 5:12 p.m., Boston police wrote on Twitter that the suspect had been apprehended

Emerson sent its third and final “all clear” message at 6:03 p.m., while stating that Rotch Field would remain closed while officers processed the scene. Police departed the scene around 7:00 p.m., according to Watson.

“When somebody has a firearm in their hand and nobody gets seriously injured, it’s a win,” said Acting Boston Police Commissioner Gregory Long in a press conference on the scene.

No Emerson athletic teams were present at Rotch Field at the beginning of the standoff. The men’s soccer team, having played a match at Regis University on Monday, was not scheduled for practice on Tuesday, according to head coach Daniel Toulson. Women’s soccer coach David Suvak could not immediately be reached for comment.

However, one student was reported to have been practicing lacrosse on the field when Fields arrived Tuesday morning—jumping the fence to escape.

Fields was released into the care of medical professionals to be treated for “non-life-threatening injuries,” as well as psychological evaluation. Watson said Fields would be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Wednesday. At his arraignment, Fields was ordered held without bail and committed to Bridgewater State Hospital for a competency evaluation. If found competent, he will face a dangerousness hearing, court documents show. 

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Fields’ sister said her brother suffers from mental health issues, and has been homeless for several years.