WAKEFIELD (CBS) — Wakefield and Reading residents were asked to shelter in place as Massachusetts State Police deal with a standoff that has shut down Interstate 95 in Wakefield. The highway was closed in both directions between Lynnfield and Stoneham Saturday morning.
Two people were arrested around 6:45 a.m. State Police said they had “several armed persons accounted for at this scene” who were “refusing to comply with orders to provide their information and put down their weapons.”
The standoff stems from an incident hours earlier where a trooper stopped to help two cars pulled over in the breakdown lane. State Police said it appeared the two cars were refueling but the trooper noticed eight-to-10 people in the cars were wearing full military-style uniforms. Some had long rifles, some had pistols, and some had both. The trooper asked for driver’s licenses and proper licensing for the guns, but the group did not provide either.
They told police they were headed from Rhode Island to Maine for training, according to State Police.
As the trooper called for backup, several members of the group spread out into the nearby woods.
“We’re committed to a negotiation with them, having a conversation. We’re going to utilize time; time is our ally in this,” said State Police Colonel Christopher Mason.
Mason said he has seen body camera footage of the initial interactions and applauded the trooper for being patient.
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“The self-professed leader wants it very much known that their ideology is not anti-government. I think the investigation that follows from this interaction will provide us insight into what their motivation, what their ideology is, but as a quick down and dirty observation: their actions have had a significant impact on the motoring public, particularly given that this is a holiday weekend,” said Mason.
“It is extremely unusual for Massachusetts State Police to shut down a major highway,” WBZ security expert and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said.
“They are heavily armed. They’re a very difficult and dangerous group deal with,” he added. “The question is how long do you let this go on?”
Wakefield Police Chief Steven Skory said residents are allowed to leave the town, but should avoid the impacted area near North Avenue, Parker Road, and Ash Street. The shelter in place continues for residents near Parker Road, Elm Street and North Avenue area in Wakefield, and the Parker Road and Ash Street areas in Reading.
Police from Waltham, Georgetown, Stoneham, Arlington, Lowell, Tewksbury, Burlington, Ayer, and Littleton have also responded to the scene.