The Dudley Square Station in Roxbury is the city’s busiest bus terminal, a crossroads of cultures in the middle of a commercial center that is desperately trying to reclaim its economic glory from more than a half century ago.
A burst of gunfire on the bus platform of the T station Thursday night left Courtney W. Jackson, 26, dead. The brazen slaying left residents wondering whether the nascent turnaround in Dudley Square would be threatened by such violence. Two fatal stabbings near the square last summer, including one not far from a film shoot, also raised alarms.
Darnell Williams, a member of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, said the momentum will not be thwarted.
“Every now and then you have a flare-up like this, and it serves as a reminder that it is still in our midst,” Williams said. “But there is robust activity transpiring in the area, and I do not believe this isolated incident will be an impediment to those projects.”
Just across the street from the T station Friday, two men were arraigned in Roxbury District Court in the latest violence.
Brian Cooper, 25, of Mattapan and Jamel Bannister, 22, of Dorchester were ordered held without bail, each charged with murder and carrying a firearm without a license. They were also charged as armed career criminals, as they have previous firearms and violent crime convictions.
David Fredette, assistant Suffolk district attorney, recounted the fatal shooting from surveillance video.
“It is about as callous, cowardly, and brazen an incident as I’ve seen in my time doing this job,” Fredette said. “[A] defendant pointed a gun not only at the victim in this case but at a crowd of people who were just waiting to get on the bus at 9:45 on a Thursday night.”
That crime scene stood in stark contrast with the tableau of progress seen by Williams, president and chief executive of The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, which is located near the station. Williams, who lives several blocks away, cited the mixed-used projects underway for the area that will join existing restaurants, clothing boutiques, banks, and insurance offices.
At the heart of the revitalization is the $115-million redevelopment of the long-abandoned Ferdinand building, which will house Boston’s School Department, and two adjacent buildings, Williams said.
Longtime businessman Phillip Franklin, 52, said optimism is in the air, but wonders what effect such crimes will have on businesses. He has been selling incense and oils there for more than 20 years, and said he has seen his share of violence, but declined to give specifics.
“Some things are better left unsaid if I want to stay in business,” he said.
The motive for Thursday’s shooting remains under investigation, said Daniel F. Conley, Suffolk district attorney.
During the arraignment, the defendants hid out of sight behind a door leading into the courtroom. Their attorneys pleaded not guilty on their behalf.
Fredette said Jackson was on a platform when he was approached by two individuals. The three talked for about a minute; then Jackson turned and walked toward a bus.
Authorities said Cooper then pulled out a gun, pointed it at Jackson, and fired several times. Bannister pulled out a gun but did not fire, officials said. Both suspects ran away, but were quickly apprehended, Fredette said.
“The bus had just boarded — there were other passengers on the bus — and he [Jackson] was shot right by the door, on the platform,” Paul MacMillan, MBTA Transit Police chief, said in a telephone interview. “Several passengers had boarded the bus prior to the shooting, so it’s very fortunate that nobody else was injured.”
John Tardiff, Bannister’s attorney, asserted in court that his client is not one of the duo who was present at that scene. Tardiff said Bannister was in the general area and ran just like everyone else.
“He does not know the codefendant,’’ Tardiff said. “He just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.’’
About 20 relatives and friends of the victim attended the arraignment. Emotions spilled over afterward in front of the courthouse, as several of them yelled, calling the defendants cowards. “[Jackson] was a good person — why did they have to do that, like cowards?” said one woman, who identified herself only as Jackson’s cousin.
City and Transit Police maintained a visible presence in the station Friday. Two officers stopped a departing bus, boarded it, then left after questioning a passenger. Several police cruisers with lights flashing rode through the terminal, squeezing by the buses.
The station offers 17 bus routes, and about 30,000 passengers use it daily. It is located next to the Area B-2 police station.
Police crime statistics for the neighborhood were not available Friday. The last homicide in the transportation terminal was on Valentine’s Day in 2004. Last year, there were 26 Category 1 crimes, including assaults and robberies, inside and around the Dudley station, and 28 in 2011, MacMillan said.
Commuters expressed shock over the homicide. “It makes me feel sad that these kids today don’t understand the value of life and how short it is,” said Albert Wheeler, 53, who grew up in Roxbury. “This shooting in broad daylight, come on, why did they come shooting at a station? They could have hit an innocent bystander, a kid.”
Sherry Moses, 28, of Roxbury, said she is afraid to visit the station at night. “I feel it’s not safe, so I only come during the daytime,” Moses said.