Massachusetts State Police Trooper Michael Proctor, who led the investigation into the murder of Boston Police officer John O’Keefe, has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

A duty status hearing board of three officers on Monday recommended the suspension to interim Police Superintendent Col. John Mawn Jr., according to a police representative.

The ongoing internal investigation relates to comments Proctor made while investigating the death of O’Keefe, Karen Read’s boyfriend. Read was charged with murder in the second degree, manslaughter while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor, and leaving a scene of personal injury and death.

During Read’s trial, Proctor admitted that he sent texts to family, friends and fellow troopers in which he called Read names and profane insults, including “wack job c***,” and admitted to texting his sister that he wished Read would “kill herself.” He apologized on the stand for some of the language he used, saying that “emotions got the best of me.” He insisted the comments, while “unprofessional and regrettable,” did not impact the integrity of the investigation.

The case ended in a mistrial last week, at which point the Massachusetts Police Department “took immediate action to relieve [Proctor] of duty,” Mawn said in a statement. “Our focus remains on delivering the highest level of police services with professionalism and integrity.”

Prior to Monday’s duty status hearing, Proctor had been transferred from the detective unit assigned to the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office, and had his police vehicle and gun taken away, but was still considered a member of the department and collected a paycheck.

In a statement to GBH News last week, State Police Association President Brian Williams said the union does “not condone the language used in the text messages,” and that disciplinary action taken against Proctor “came as a result of the trooper’s private text message exchanges that were made public during the trial. We also understand that it has no relationship to salacious allegations of cover-ups, collusion or conspiracies offered by the defense.”

Williams emphasized the union’s sympathy with the O’Keefe family, on behalf of the Association’s 2,000 members. “The loss they have suffered is immense,” Williams wrote. “We remain hopeful that justice will be served so the family receives the closure they deserve.”

As for the case against Read, Norfolk Superior Court Judge Beverly Cannone called for a status hearing on July 22. Read’s attorneys filed a motion Monday to dismiss two of the charges, claiming that the jury had been prepared to acquit her on the charges of second-degree murder and leaving a scene of personal injury and death, according to reporting from NBC10.

A small crowd of people stand on the sidewalk, holding signs and flags as they wave at cars passing by.
Supporters of Karen Read hold signs and chant by the side of the road near the Massachusetts State Police South Boston Barracks on Monday, July 8, 2024.
Tori Bedford GBH News

About 60 supporters of Karen Read protested outside the Massachusetts State Police South Boston Barracks on Monday afternoon, holding “Fire Proctor” signs and similar messages alongside signs with “Free Karen Read” and “Justice 4 Officer O’Keefe.” Organizer Paul Cristoforo said they wanted to make their voices heard in Proctor’s “home base” while the investigation against Proctor is pending.

“He’s suspended without pay,” Cristoforo said. “There’s a chance he could actually be reinstated, or he could be terminated.”

Protestor Richard Peterson grew up in Canton and moved back 10 years ago. He said he didn’t used to be too involved in the community, but the Read case mobilized him and many others.

“It’s unsettling to live in that town, to pass a police cruiser [and] to feel like you need three showers,” he said. “It’s not a nice feeling at all.”

Beyond what happens to Proctor as a result of the internal investigation, protesters said they want to see broader shifts within the state police.

“It’s been eye-opening to see and learn of the mentality that exists, that obviously enabled these things to happen ... just the culture of looking the other way, sweeping it under the rug,” Peterson said. He added that Proctor’s actions may have just been “him being comfortable with the culture.”

“I like to stress to people all the time we are not anti-police. We are not. We’re just anti-corrupt police,” Cristoforo explained. “Every business has good employees and bad employees. State police have some bad employees, and they need to learn how to deal with them.”

Updated: July 08, 2024
This story was updated to include comments from people at the Monday afternoon protest.