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A prisoner being guarded by two Middlesex County deputy sheriffs at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary tried to grab a gun from one of the deputies. The gun went off during the desperate struggle, injuring the deputy, but the prisoner was then shot by the second deputy, Boston police said.
The prisoner is in critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital. The deputy, who was shot in the leg, is also being treated at MGH, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said.
Davis said the incident happened just before noon, when the two deputies had brought the prisoner to the hospital for treatment.
“Inside the emergency room, as the handcuffs were being taken off the suspect, he began to struggle for a gun. There was a fight. ... The two individuals fell to the floor and a round was fired,” Davis said. The deputy, who was struck in the leg, is expected to survive the injury, authorities said.
The other deputy “apparently discharged his weapon, striking the suspect” in the chest, said Davis.
The prisoner never wrested the gun from the deputy. It went off during the fight, a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said.
Davis said he didn’t want people to get the impression that any suspects were still at large. “Everybody [involved] is either in the hospital or in custody,” he said.
Boston detectives interviewed witnesses at the scene and looked for evidence. Boston police will work with the Suffolk district attorney’s office to investigate the incident, Davis said.
The Middlesex sheriff’s office said in a statement that it was working with Boston police “regarding an incident involving two officers” from the office.
“We will release more details when we are able, and are right now focused on the safety and well-being of the officers involved,” the statement said.
The district attorney’s office said it would investigate the use of potentially deadly force by the deputy sheriff.
Gigi Mitchell, 8, saw the prisoner at the hospital with the deputies but did not see the shooting. “I saw him in the lobby with two policemen and he was all cuffed and chained and he was all bruised,” she said, with her father standing by.
A Winchester woman, who asked not to be identified, said she was in the waiting room. “I heard them trying to control somebody first and then I heard shouting and then I heard the gunshots. It was at least four to six,” she said.
She said the incident happened on the other side of some doors from her. “I saw them trying to get him down” through glass panes in the doors, she said. “It was like a scuffle.”
She said she could tell the situation was serious because of the voices, which “sounded stressed, they sounded it was like an emergency.”
Hospital officials closed the emergency room but announced late this afternoon that it would reopen at 6 p.m.
“We are very confident that the Mass. Eye and Ear emergency room is safe tonight,” said Jennifer Street, the hospital vice president for communications.
“Understandably, we are also caring for staff who were visibly shaken today, but they are doing quite well,” she said.
A hospital parking attendant who declined to give his name said he was on the corner across the street from the lobby of the hospital when the shooting started.
“I heard five gunshots,” he said. After the shooting stopped, there was “just a lot of people running out of the lobby.”Globe correspondent Javier Panzar contributed to this report.