Off-Duty Springfield Police Officer Dressed in Camo Gear Was Armed With Gun and Knife During Mall Confrontation

SPRINGFIELD — The teenager was lucky, Springfield Police Officer Daniel J. Cintron explained.

During a dispute outside the Eastfield Mall, a tall, bearded man named Matt had just punched the teen’s friend twice in the face and taken his cellphone. But the teen, unlike his friend, had avoided Matt’s wrath, Cintron pointed out.

“You’re lucky I didn’t let Matt kill you,” Cintron said, according to an arrest report. “He’s an ex-con, and I would have done nothing about it.”

The officer threatened the teen with arrest and a decade in prison. “I’ll see you in court,” he said later, according to the report.

Three weeks later, Cintron, 28, and Matthew Mattoon, 31, came to Springfield District Court to answer eight charges from the Aug. 20 confrontation outside the mall. During separate appearances Tuesday, both men pleaded not guilty to one count of unarmed robbery, three counts of assault and battery and four counts of witness intimidation.

By then, Cintron had already been suspended for five days without pay for his role in the incident, according to a spokesman for the Hampden district attorney’s office. The suspension, imposed Monday, is the maximum amount Police Commissioner John Barbieri could impose as a punishment prior to any department discipline hearing, spokesman James Leydon said.

Angry over text messages sent to Mattoon’s younger sister, the two defendants confronted the sender and his two friends outside the food court at the Boston Road mall, Assistant District Attoreny Cary Szafranski said.

As a security guard approached, Cintron — armed with a knife and gun and wearing a Springfield police badge with black tape over his identification number — told her “to back off in an aggressive manner,” the arrest report said.

He also chest-bumped one of the teens and threatened the others, the report said.

Cintron refused three times to identify himself to mall security. But after the confrontation ended, he acknowledged being a police officer and said he would handle the incident, though he never filed a report, Szafranski said.

Besides being witnessed by security guards and shoppers, the incident was partially recorded on mall security cameras. Witnesses also jotted down the license plate number of a vehicle that left the scene, and the plate was traced to Cintron, Szafranski said.

Defense lawyer Charles Dolan, representing Cintron, said the police report offers a one-sided version of the confrontation. Police failed to interview his client and as many as six witnesses before filing charges, he said.

Based on his initial review, Dolan said the mall surveillance tape also appears to be inconclusive.

In addition to serving for three years as a city police officer, Cintron has been a member of the Army National Guard for a decade. Given his background, the decision to issue an arrest warrant, rather than a standard court summons, “was ridiculous,” Dolan said.

Cintron turned in his firearm and voluntarily appeared in court Tuesday, his lawyer said.

Judge William Rota rejected a prosecution request to set bail at $5,000 for both men and released them on personal recognizance, with orders to have no contact with the alleged victims and to stay away from the Eastfield Mall.

Cintron and Mattoon are due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Oct 25.