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Two gunned down in Brockton, city vows crackdown on violence

By Milton J. Valencia and John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / January 22, 2010

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BROCKTON - A brother and sister were gunned down during an apparent home invasion yesterday morning, horrifyng community leaders already reeling from an outbreak of violence in the city.

Outside the siblings’ home on Nilsson Street after the 9:30 a.m. shooting, friends and neighbors tried to make sense of the killing of Maria DePina, 29, and her younger brother, Jorge, 26. The onlookers waited for the medical examiner to carry the bodies out, and the group was tearful and silent as the bodies were loaded into a transport van at about 3 p.m.

City leaders, meanwhile, vowed to flood the area with extra police and gang unit patrols, not only to investigate the shooting but also to establish some sense of security for a community hit by a plague of violence in recent weeks.

“This sort of conduct, this sort of action, is not going to be tolerated in the city of Brockton,’’ Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said at the site of the shooting yesterday. “I want to make that clear.’’

He said the killings do not appear to be random and remain under investigation. At an impromptu press conference, he asked the dozens of onlookers to report any information to police.

“Police can only deal with the information they have, and it’s important for the community to become a partner,’’ he said.

Mayor Linda Balzotti said the shooting yesterday was the latest in a cycle of violence and may have been in retaliation for a past incident.

She said she had no specifics, but pointed out that the city has been rocked by violence since she took her oath of office on Jan. 4. One man was killed the next day, and a second died in a drive-by shooting this past weekend.

Those two killings were not related, however, police said.

A friend of Jorge DePina, Silvia Nuness, 21, said that one of the slain man’s closest friends was shot and killed at a gas station in Brockton in November.

Balzotti said that local police will work with state troopers assigned to Cruz to boost patrols in coming days.

“We are going to start being very aggressive,’’ she said. “It’s going to be a complete and total crackdown citywide.’’

Police were alerted to the shooting shortly after 9:30 a.m., when a woman began banging on neighbors’ doors, screaming for help, neighbors said. Police showed up at the DePina home to find the second-floor door kicked in and the brother and sister suffering from gunshot wounds. They were pronounced dead at the scene, Cruz said. Neighbors said Maria DePina’s 11-year-old son was home at the time but apparently did not see the shooting.

Neighbors said the woman knocking on doors was Jorge’s girlfriend, the mother of his 4-year-old twins, who had come home shortly after the shooting. She had just dropped the twins off at their grandmother’s house, friends said.

Neimatu Davies, 40, who lives across the street, said she came out of her home to see a woman weeping hysterically, and police cruisers arriving.

“She was crying for help,’’ she said.

Yesterday’s shooting came as the Cape Verdean Association was organizing an antiviolence vigil for last night, the anniversary of a sensational shooting rampage in which a white supremacist raped a woman, shot and killed her sister, and later a homeless man. He was arrested and faces trial.

Moises Rodrigues, a community advocate who worked under the former mayor, said the killings should send a signal that police can only do so much and that neighbors need to help one another by reporting crimes.

“This issue of violence is something that is only going to be resolved when the community decides to stop it,’’ said Rodrigues, who lived only a block away from the house where the shooting occurred on Nilsson Street for close to two decades.

Olivio Andrade, who owns the house where the shooting occurred, said Maria DePina had been a tenant for five years and he had had no problems with her. He said she lived there with her son, and her brother moved in about a month.

Arlindo DePina, the victims’ father, said in a brief phone interview last night that his children had “no problems with anyone,’’ adding that several relatives were at his home.

At least one woman was heard sobbing in the background.

Friends said that Maria DePina recently obtained her license to be a certified nursing assistant and that she worked at a nursing home in Rockland.

Although she was outgoing and energetic, she tended to stay home to avoid the violence in her South Side neighborhood, they said.

“They came and killed her in her own house,’’ said Nunes tearfully as she left the scene. “You just don’t do that to people.’’

Globe correspondent Travis Anderson contributed to this report. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com; Ellement at ellement@globe.com.