OXFORD — Eighteen hours after he gunned down an Auburn cop in cold blood, Jorge Zambrano was shot dead by a tactical police unit after he burst from a closet and opened fire in an Oxford duplex, authorities said.

The daylong drama began just after midnight when Auburn officer Ronald Tarentino Jr., 42, a father of three, pulled over a 1997 Infiniti SUV with stolen plates.

Police say Zambrano shot Tarentino, who was found laying in the street, radioing for help on his mic. An intensive manhunt was launched for the suspect. An alert described Zambrano as “armed and dangerous. … Officers are advised to use extreme caution.” Authorities said Zambrano had an extensive criminal record.

Around mid-afternoon, police found the vehicle they said Zambrano had been driving parked behind the duplex on Watch Street in Oxford. They surrounded the house.

“He was lying in ambush for them,” Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said last night. State and local police surrounded the duplex, fired in tear gas and were using a bullhorn to tell Zambrano to surrender.

State police Col. Richard McKeon said, “After clearing the basement and first floor … troopers made entry onto the second floor. As they entered a bedroom, a closet door burst open. The suspect appeared from inside the closet and fired on the troopers, striking one of them.”

The trooper, an 18-year police veteran who is a former Navy SEAL, was in stable condition with a shoulder wound last night at UMass-Lakeside Hospital. He was conscious and alert at the hospital prior to being prepped for surgery, state police said.

The town of Auburn was reeling from the violence and the loss of a beloved officer yesterday.

Tammy and Edward Lemieux heard the shots and saw Tarentino on the street, and tried to comfort the dying officer.

“All we heard was the yelling and screaming after we heard the pop, pop,” Edward Lemieux said. “We don’t know where he was hit. … It seemed like slow motion, but it wasn’t. Not even two minutes and the ambulance was here, backup was here.”

Tammy Lemieux told Tarentino, ” ‘Help’s coming. They’re on their way.’ I held his hand and told him he was going to be OK, and he’s in good hands. ‘They’re coming, they’re coming.’ ”

Auburn police Chief Andrew Sluckis told reporters hours later, “The Auburn police, the town of Auburn and the law enforcement community suffered a tragicloss this morning. We are devastated for his family.”

Tarentino, who transferred to Auburn from Leicester two years ago, was raised in Tewksbury, the son of a retired Medford police officer. Tarentino’s mother, Sharon Tarentino, told the Herald yesterday: “You never think it’s going to happen to you. It hits you like a sledgehammer. … It’s just not fair.”

Pat Paquette, a Tewksbury neighbor, called the slain officer a “very polite, nice young man.”

Paquette, without elaborating, said some neighbors have gone through “some tragedies” and Tarentino’s parents were always there to help.

“I guess it’s our chance to support them,” Paquette said. “They’re devastated. It was their only son and he has a family. It’s just hard.”

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