Police ramp up after violence

Want to prevent retaliation after 4 killed, 15 hurt

Get Adobe Flash player
By Maria Cramer and Brian Ballou
Globe Staff / July 6, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

The violence that erupted over the July Fourth weekend left four people dead and 15 others wounded in shootings and stabbings across Boston, alarming police officials who said they are stepping up patrols in crime-plagued areas to prevent retaliatory violence.

Most of the violence came in just five hours on one of the city’s bloodiest Independence Days in years. Four men - including a 17-year-old Roxbury high school senior who died in his father’s arms - were killed, and nine others were wounded in that period between Monday night and yesterday morning. All four killings were connected to gang feuds, said Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis.

Davis said he would increase patrols in parts of Dorchester, where long-running gang rivalries recently led to a spate of shootings. But he insisted that, in general, the department is already doing what it should to combat violence.

Two of the victims were reputed gang members, officials said. The other two were workaday fathers caught up in the violence.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino met with police commanders yesterday afternoon to find out what strategies police were employing.

“It’s been a very tough weekend for all of us,’’ he said. “It’s so frustrating. You think you’ve touched every base. You think you’ve done everything right.’’

Authorities did not release the names of the victims. But relatives identified the four who were killed.

The first man killed Monday night was James Coakley, his family said yesterday. They recalled his final moments after he was shot on the sidewalk outside his house on Hollander Street just after 7 p.m.

The victim’s aunt said that his father, who was standing nearby, sprinted to him.

“ ‘Daddy, I know who it was,’ ’’ Coakley said to his father, who held him. “ ‘I saw them.’ ’’ Before he could say anything more, his eyes rolled back and he died, said his aunt, who declined to give her name for fear of retaliation.

After that shooting, Boston police were rushing from one scene of violence to the next. Police had deployed at least two dozen additional officers around Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester during the long weekend to work at night and into the early morning.

Davis said the violence followed an “unprecedented period of calm’’ during the spring, when shootings fell 32 percent at one point, compared with the same time last year.

“Unfortunately, you see spikes of these violent incidents occurring,’’ Davis said in an interview. “We’re confident that we’re going in the right direction in getting control of the violent crimes that we had.’’

By yesterday, there had been 24 killings in the city this year, compared with 32 the same time last year.

Davis said Coakley, who police said was part of a Dorchester-based gang, was about to be placed on a list of known offenders compiled through a city program known as Partnerships Advancing Communities Together.

That list represents the city’s most violent offenders, 200 to 300 so-called impact players in crime believed to be behind most of the city’s shootings. The goal is to arrest offenders on the list on outstanding warrants or other offenses and to recruit social services organizations to help their families and neighborhoods.

Coakley arrived at Hollander Street early Monday for a family barbecue, his aunt said.

He was standing in front of the house with a friend when a car drove by. Someone inside fired four shots, relatives said, and the car sped off.

“He was more like a son to me than a younger brother,’’ said Coakley’s sister, who also declined to give her name. “And now he’s gone.’’

Coakley was supposed to start a summer job yesterday, his family said. At least once a week, he attended group meetings with other teenagers to talk about violence, sex, drugs, and other problems of the neighborhood, said Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project RIGHT, an antiviolence organization in Grove Hall, where the meetings took place.

Less than three hours after Coakley was shot, 34-year-old Victor Gomes, a Roslindale grocery store worker, was standing with relatives on the porch of a three-decker on Norton Street in Dorchester, visiting his parents.

He was killed when shots rang out from nearby Clarkson Street, according to the victim’s aunt, Joanna Gomes.

Everyone ran for cover. Gomes, the father of a 3-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy, was struck in the chest near his shoulder, she said. Two other people were hit by the bullets but survived.

“He was not the kind to hang in gangs,’’ said his brother, Antonio Gomes. “I know for sure he wasn’t like that. He worked at Stop & Shop full time and took care of his family. That’s all.’’

Gomes had no criminal record. He was probably an innocent bystander killed by gang members targeting rivals who live in that area, police said.

The last killings of the weekend occurred in Dorchester just after midnight yesterday. LaShon Washington, a 39-year-old father of four, was driving his cousin, Joseph Winston, home from a barbecue, according to the victims’ families.

As the men sat in the car on Columbia Road, police said, someone ran up and fired into it. The car lurched forward and crashed into a building.

Police believe the gunman was aiming for Winston, a 26-year-old Roxbury man with ties to a Roxbury gang, said two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation. Winston’s family, who gathered with Washington’s relatives yesterday at a house on Dewolf Street to mourn the two men, said that Winston was mentally disabled and often came off as aggressive when he actually had no idea what he was saying.

“What’s the sense of shooting somebody?’’ said Timothy Washington, LaShon Washington’s 69-year-old father. “If you can shoot somebody, there’s something wrong with you. . . . You can’t put back a life. Once you take it, it’s gone. It’s not Hollywood. Out here, it’s real. You get shot, you get killed.’’

Some of the 13 other shootings and stabbings that took place over the entire weekend appeared to be drug-related, Davis said. Police are still probing motives, he said. The weekend violence followed a week in which a 4-year-old boy was shot and a 38-year-old man was killed on Olney Street in Dorchester.

In May, Governor Deval Patrick announced he would push a bill that would toughen gun laws, fight street gangs, and commit $10 million for programs in the state’s most violent cities.

The Rev. Eugene Rivers, interim director of the Ella J. Baker House, called on Patrick to tell about the program’s status.

“Was it in effect this past weekend with all the violence that exploded throughout the city?’’ Rivers said. “I’m not saying that the plan would have resulted in what happened not happening, but as a tax-paying citizen I have to ask a logical question: If there was a comprehensive violence-prevention strategy, where is it?’’

Marilyn Anderson Chase, an assistant secretary of the state Office of Health and Human Services, said funding for the $10 million was approved June 21. The bill is before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

“It’s an unprecedented move for a governor to wade into what is normally seen as the purview of a local municipality,’’ Chase said. “But he thought this was an issue that was so pervasive that it needed the attention of the highest levels of government.’’

John Guilfoil of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Maria Cramer can be reached at