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Kevin Cullen

Working the streets

Email|Print| Text size + By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / November 15, 2007

If it was his aspiration to be a gangster, Patrick "Pistol" Gomes was surrounded by all the trappings as he shuffled into Courtroom 16 on the waterfront Tuesday morning.

He had chains on his wrists and ankles and the power and resources of the federal government aligned against him.

Patrick Gomes is 22 years old, and, if the authorities have their way, he won't be on the streets again until he's an old man.

Not that this was said publicly. Ostensibly, Gomes and his buddy, Alex "A.J." Curet, stand accused of selling crack.

But courts are funny places. Facts get thrown around, and the truth floats somewhere else, elusive, ephemeral, unspoken.

Here's the truth: For much of the last year, Gomes has been the most wanted man in Boston, even though most people have never heard of him. Boston police, state troopers, and federal agents have spent months trying to get him off the streets. He is suspected in several killings. He has been the target of numerous assassination bids.

But the police have not been able to get anyone to testify against Gomes or his associates in Woodward Ave., a gang that takes its name from the street in Roxbury where its members hang.

This is not entirely surprising, given that gangs are expert at intimidating witnesses.

So the authorities resorted to getting Gomes and his pals to implicate themselves. A small, hidden camera was attached to an informant who was sent to buy crack from Gomes and Curet.

The video was played in court Tuesday, when a federal prosecutor named John Wortmann asked Magistrate Judge Timothy Hillman to hold Gomes and Curet without bail until they go to trial.

George Gormley, Gomes's lawyer, suggests that the government's concerns about his client are greatly exaggerated. Harder to explain away are the sound and images of his client selling crack, not to mention the tattoo of a smoking gun with the word pistol that is inked on Gomes's arm.

With Gomes and Curet locked up on drug charges, the police hope they can persuade someone, anyone, to testify against the two and their associates in more serious, violent crimes.

The ultimate goal is to hook Gomes and other members of Woodward Ave. on murder charges.

For now, the cops will settle for a buy-bust on film.

There was a time and place when the only thing Gomes was shooting were basketballs.

His old coach, Bruce Seals, shook his head when he heard what the cops were saying about Patrick Gomes.

"He was one of my better players," Seals said, standing in the foyer of the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester, 4 miles and a world away from the federal courthouse.

There was discipline and structure at the Marr, and for a while Gomes thrived there. Seals played in the NBA, stands 6 feet, 8 inches, and was protective of Gomes, who is barely 5 feet tall.

Seals often drove him home at night, worried about the streets Gomes had to negotiate alone.

Gomes had a temper, and it got the better of him sometimes, most infamously during a playoff game at the Marr, when he was 15. He threw some chairs. He almost threw one at Seals, but thought better of it.

He never really came back after that.

They save a lot of kids at the Marr. Bruce Seals stared out the glass doors the other day, thinking about one they lost.

"The streets can swallow up a kid," he said. "Swallow him whole."

As Seals spoke, a boy opened the front door. The child was 8 or 9, about the same age Patrick Gomes was when he started coming to the Marr.

The boy walked by, and Seals was still talking about Gomes as he reached down and absentmindedly gave the boy a light squeeze on the shoulder.

The boy stopped, looked up at big Bruce Seals, and smiled.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.

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