By Seth Daniel
It’s no secret that, at times, the quiet of a Chelsea night can be punctuated by the sound of gunfire.
But not on Warren Avenue, usually.
The calm of the hillside neighborhood below the Soldiers’ Home broke out into chaos just before 10 p.m. on Monday night, when a misty night gave way to hundreds of police and fire personnel, and one man who allegedly initiated the response with a domestic situation, perished after a lengthy standoff and raging fire.
Kelly Pastrana, 38, of 80 Warren Ave., was found dead around 2 a.m. on Tuesday inside the home after fire crews from all over the area had extinguished the raging inferno that Pastrana allegedly started while police negotiators tried to reach out to him.
That came after he had fired on police twice with a gun while holed up in his home.
District Attorney Dan Conley and Chief Brian Kyes promises a full and fair evaluation of the incident, and Conley said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that Pastrana had died of a gunshot wound to the abdomen. That seemed to indicate that police might have shot him during the exchange of gunfire between Pastrana and police on the second occasion that he allegedly fired upon them.
“The facts as we understand them strongly suggest that this was a case of domestic violence,” said Conley. “It escalated to an armed assault on the female victim, a young child, and responding police officers – two of whom, we believe, also discharged their firearms in the course of the event. After the initial domestic assaults, evidence suggests that Mr. Pastrana deliberately set a fire inside the home, where he was found dead early this morning. A short time ago, state pathologists ruled his death the result of a gunshot wound to the abdomen with thermal injuries from the fire.”
He said the case has been turned over to senior homicide prosecutors in his office. He also said that the case file would be turned over to Pastrana’s family, and then to the public.
“As with any death that involves police activity, senior homicide prosecutors from my office are leading the investigation to determine exactly what took place and whether criminal charges are warranted,” he said. “They will work with State Police detectives assigned to my office, with the assistance of specialized State Police units, the State Fire Marshal’s office, and Chelsea Police detectives. This is a standard procedural step and we have drawn no final conclusions at this early stage.”
A member of Pastrana’s family, Emanuel Santiago, of East Boston, was on the scene Tuesday.
He said Pastrana and his wife, who both lived on Warren Avenue since around 2015, moved from East Boston and were both rooted there. He said they had five children, one of whom was a star athlete at East Boston High School. He said Pastrana was a family man, and he asked for the family to be respected.
“He wasn’t a criminal or a troublemaker,” said Santiago. “He was a human being like we all are.”
Police were called to the scene around 9:18 p.m.
Just prior to that, Pastrana is alleged to have chased his wife and their youngest child out of the home. As they sought help nearby, he fired a weapon at them, but did not hit anyone.
As he proceeded back to his home, he encountered a responding officer and shot the gun at him.
That officer was originally reported to have been shot in the hand, but Chief Kyes said the officer had only cut his hand while diving out of the way of the discharged bullets.
Pastrana is then alleged to have gone into the home and fired bullets out the front window at police.
A short time later, after a huge response to the home from police in Revere, Everett, Boston, Lynn and even Salem, Pastrana came out the basement door in the back of the home and fired again on police who were trying to set up a perimeter around the home.
The neighborhood began to erupt into chaos after that.
Police went door to door and evacuated people from their homes, with many running from their homes in terror and fleeing to a nearby church until around 3 a.m.
Council President Leo Robinson, who lives on Warren Avenue, said he heard gunshots and then everything went south.
“I was at home after the Council meeting and then heard the ‘boom-boom’ of the gunshots,” he said. “A few minutes later the cops were banging on the door and telling us to leave. We had to go down the street, and a bunch of people went to the church. It was crazy.”
Things got much more problematic, however, when police began to notice smoke coming out of the home. Officers at the scene on the radio began reporting that the area was “really smoking up.”
The problem, however, was that it was too dangerous with an active shooter to allow firefighters to move in to fight the growing blaze. Soon enough, the entire house had been engulfed and flames stretched high into the air.
Once they believed that no one was alive inside due to the fire, fire crews from all over Greater Boston moved in under ‘forced protection’ of the large SWAT team presence.
Chief Len Albanese said it was a defensive fight, trying to make sure the fire didn’t spread to any other homes.
“It was too dangerous to put firefighters in the way of that,” he said. “We let the building burn unit we were quite certain no one could survive and then we moved in. It was a defensive fight, focusing on that building only and making sure it didn’t spread.”
The fire was extinguished about 2 a.m. and investigators moved in, finding Pastrana deceased inside.
Kyes said Pastrana did not have an extensive record. He had an arrest in Chelsea in 2004 for an assault, some motor vehicle violations in 2006 and an arrest in 2009 in Lynn for an assault and battery. Other than that, he wasn’t really on the police radar screen.
One of the keys to the evening for law enforcement was how the multiple agencies, including police, fire, SWAT and dispatch, worked together seamlessly.
Kyes said it was incredible the way agencies worked and cooperated to handle the incident.
Said Albanese, “Police and Fire worked well together. We’ve adapted our policy under the latest Department of Homeland Security guiltiness and it proved effective. The incredible response when as good as we could have expected.”