Manhunt is on for killers in Woolson St. massacre

By 
Alex Owens, Special to the Reporter and Bill Forry, Managing Editor
Sep. 30, 2010

Chris Byner, who heads the city's Streetworker program, comforts grieving woman

Chris Byner, who heads the city's Streetworker program, comforts a grieving woman near the scene of Tuesday’s mass murder on Woolson Street Mattapan. AP photo by Josh Reynolds

Outraged residents and leaders called out for swift justice this week after someone murdered four people on a Mattapan sidestreet Tuesday morning — including a 2 year old-boy shot to death in his mother’s arms. The early morning incident on Woolson Street, which also left a fifth victim near death, ranks as one of the worst atrocities in Boston’s history.

Investigators have thus far been tight-lipped about the circumstances of the murders, but police sources have told the Reporter that the mayhem was the result of “a drug deal gone bad.” The carnage triggered a massive response from local officials, who have engaged the help of the FBI in mounting a manhunt, although no suspects have yet been named publicly.

The city’s Shot Spotter sensor system alerted Boston Police to the gunshots just after 1 a.m. Police from district B-3 who responded found three men and a woman lying in the street. The men had been stripped naked. Shaken officers described finding a two year-old boy, later identified as Armani Smith, clinging to his mother’s body. He died hours later at a Boston hospital.

The fifth victim, whom relatives say is 32 year-old Dorchester resident Marcus Hurd, is mortally wounded and hospitalized. Police Commssioner Ed Davis said Hurd is not expected to survive. The other victims are reportedly the toddler’s mother, Eyanna Flonory, 21, of Dorchester; Simba Martin, 22, of Mattapan; and Levaughn Washum-Garrison, 22, of Dorchester.

Ralph Myrthil, 43, who lives near the shooting scene, said he was awake at about 1 a.m. when he heard six shots. He said the gunfire woke his 6-year-old son, Jovany, who said “Dad, is it the Fourth of July?’’
Myrthil said he ran outside to see what happened and saw two naked bodies in the street. “People were screaming from the windows, saying ‘Help, help,’’’ he said.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis addressed the media at a hastily arranged press conference at BPD headquarters on Tuesday morning alongside Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Suffolk County DA Dan Conley. Davis said that the police had no specific suspects yet, but that they were looking for a gray or silver Ford Explorer that had reportedly been spotted fleeing the scene. He and Menino appealed to the public to assist in the investigation. Davis said that tips have come in already on an anonymous tip line.

“People need to come forward,” said Menino. “Call police, call your neighbor.”

“We’re not ready, at this very early stage, to ascribe a motive to these murders,” said Conley. “In our experience, though, violence of this magnitude is not committed randomly. There is usually some connection between the victims and the killers. For this reason, we believe that there may be people out there with helpful information and, again, we urge them to come forward. The call is free and you may remain anonymous. In light of these horrible facts, silence is not a moral option.”

As rain pelted a grieving neighborhood on Tuesday evening, neighbors gathered at Morning Star Baptist Church to get the latest update on the investigation from Menino, Davis, and Conley, who sat together at a table in front of a standing-room-only crowd. The event served as a venting session for many, including the grandmother of the tragedy’s youngest victim, who arrived at the church carrying photos of the toddler. She was inconsolable.

“We will find a way through this together” said Governor Deval Patrick during the meeting. “In any crisis, we must remember to turn to each other and not on each other.”  

City Councillor Charles Yancey urged residents to look beyond the high-ranking political leaders in the room for solutions.

“This is our community, right here. And these folks are here looking for some answers,” Yancey said. “We have to accept responsibility for what happens in this community; We have to take responsibility for what doesn’t happen in this community.”

Yet, Yancey also directed some critical remarks at the Menino administration, saying that city government must be challenged “to do more.”

“I believe the worst thing to do is cut back on our schools, cut back on our libraries, and close our community centers. I am challenging [Mattapan] to stop sitting down. We have more than $500,000 in forfieted assets, why don’t we take a small part of that and use it as a reward?” Yancey asked.

It had already been a long and somber day in the neighborhood, filled to the brim with road blocks, yellow tape, police and reporters walking the streets, and distraught neighbors crying in anguish for lost loved ones. A group of area pastors made a statement at noon at the corner near the crime scene offering prayers and spiritual support.

However, some residents around Woolson St., offered the most sobering reactions to the murders – fed up by violence which seems all too familiar. A month ago, on August 28, a man was wounded by gunfire on Woolson Street after a 7 a.m. ambush. The victim was found by police in the first-floor vestibule of 42 Woolson — right next door to the scene of Tuesday’s murders. It is unclear whether or not the two cases are related.

“There have been plenty of shootings on Woolson St. and this is the first time that people are coming out because this time it’s a 3-year old,” said Rhonda Valbrun, who spent the day urging neighbors to attend a nighttime vigil. “It didn’t have to come to this point.”

“I’ve lived here 30 years and I am about ready to move the hell out of here,” said Morton St. resident David Richardson. “Isn’t it sad when I can’t look my granddaughter in the eye and ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, because instead I have to ask some [expletive] like what she wants to be IF she grows up?”

Police officials called to the community for any information repeatedly during the day and were answered. Police say that the investigation is quickly gaining speed with a large investigation, reportedly involving three times the normal manpower of a homicide case, and the cooperation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

“We’ve made significant progress today,” said Commissioner Davis after Tuesday’s meeting at Morning Star. “A large part of that is that the people of the community have stepped up and given us leads.”