Residents of a South End housing complex yesterday said they were stunned by a security guard's fatal shooting of 56-year-old Israel Vasquez-Robles, known by many residents to be a nice man who stayed out of trouble.
"He didn't bother nobody here . . . . He's very friendly, too," said Ana Rivera, a longtime friend who lives at the development, Villa Victoria. "He lives alone. That's why he comes here every day."
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said investigators were pursuing a criminal investigation of the Saturday evening shooting, including a sweep of Vasquez-Robles's car for evidence. It was not clear whether charges would result.
"It's too early to say what the outcome will be," said Conley. "We're taking it very slowly, very methodically, and working all the evidence."
Conley said Boston police investigators were canvassing the neighborhood yesterday for witnesses to the shooting, which the two security guards on duty told police occurred around 6 p.m. after the man tried to run them down in the driveway of the housing development.
Vasquez-Robles, who police identified as a Boston resident, was shot once in the chest by one of the guards after he allegedly drove his car into one security guard and then put it in reverse and backed into the second guard, police said. After he was shot, Vasquez-Robles drove off and crashed his car nearby on Tremont Street, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Boston Medical Center.
The guards, both of whom were treated for leg injuries at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told police the encounter began when they asked Vasquez-Robles to move his vehicle, which was parked in the driveway entrance bordering the complex courtyard, according to George Blagdon, a neighborhood resident who said he witnessed the confrontation from across the street.
"I heard yelling and screaming first and then there was a gunshot," he said.
Blagdon said his attention was drawn to the driveway only after he heard the commotion, so he did not see what had preceded it.
Conley said an autopsy was being conducted yesterday by the state medical examiner's office, where officials yesterday declined to comment.
"We need the medical examiner's report, and we need witnesses," he said.
Conley said both guards have hired lawyers since the shooting. He said the guards have arranged to be interviewed by police this morning.
Friends of Vasquez-Robles said the native of Puerto Rico lived nearby and had been visiting Villa Victoria and its large Puerto Rican community for about 15 years. He would park his car in the same area and play Puerto Rican music from his car stereo and hang out with friends in the courtyard, they said.
Rivera said she saw Vasquez-Robles a few hours before the shooting, and he was in a good mood because he had won some money at Suffolk Downs earlier in the day. Police said Vasquez-Robles appeared to be intoxicated before the shooting.
The shooting was under investigation by a special panel of investigators called whenever a police officer or security guard is involved in a shooting, along with homicide investigators from the district attorney's office.
"They're doing interviews right now," John Boyle, a Boston police spokesman, said yesterday.
Boyle said the firearms of the two guards were taken by police for ballistics tests. Blagdon, the witness, said he heard two shots, but police referred to only a single shot in a release on the shooting.
Boyle said the names of the guards would not be released by police until after all interviewing in the case had ended, in compliance with department policy.
Boston police said the guards were employed by Alliance Security.
Alliance Security declined to comment on the shooting, according to a man who answered the phone at the company's office in Everett and identified himself as the dispatcher. "We're not making any statements," he said. The company is operated by the family of Dale C. Jenkins Jr., a former undersecretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety. Messages left for Jenkins were not returned.
A year ago, an Alliance Security guard, Pedro Barbosa, shot to death his girlfriend, their 11-year-old daughter, and his daughter's grandmother, then killed himself with a .40 caliber handgun in Brockton.
The shooting prompted Brockton Police Chief Paul Studenski to change the department's procedures for investigating an applicant for a firearms permit.
Studenski said Barbosa had no felony convictions, which would have disqualified him, but police records showed that Barbosa had attempted suicide in 1996. Had police considered the suicide attempt when reviewing his application, Barbosa would have been denied a permit, Studenski said. As a result, Studenski said his department would check the department's records for noncriminal contact before issuing a permit.
Security guards who want to carry a firearm must apply to the police department where they live or where they work for a permit. According to Boston police regulations, a security guard licensed after 1996 must take a course and pass a test, and those armed with a firearm must "be tested on the proper use of deadly force."
Rivera and other residents, who were talking in the Villa Victoria plaza early yesterday, charged that security guards have been too heavy-handed with residents, pushing and hitting people, when it wasn't necessary. Complaints made to management have gone unanswered, they said.
Johnny DeJesus, who was sweeping his front stoop at the Villa Victoria yesterday afternoon, said he didn't know Vasquez-Robles but had similar criticism of security guards at the complex.
"They like to intimidate people too much," he said. "They've been harassing kids for no apparent reason."
Villa Victoria is in a neighborhood that's still struggling, residents said, even though the complex on West Dedham Street is bounded by upscale shops and restaurants on Tremont Street and a large luxury condominium complex a few blocks away.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development took over the Villa Victoria in 1997, citing mismanagement, but returned control in 2000 to Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, the community agency that runs social progams for the development, and Emergency Tenants Council, which manages the property. No one was in the ETC office yesterday.