A trio of unsolved shootings along Dorchester Avenue, including two which resulted in homicides in the last week, have rattled nerves and outraged residents and merchants unaccustomed to gunfire on the relatively peaceful thoroughfare. While Boston Police doubt that the three incidents are connected, the brazen nature of the attacks and uncertainty about their motivations, have prompted strong feelings from community activists.
In the first incident, on Jan. 7, 18 year-old Darrion Carrington was gunned down at close range inside the lobby of Canton House, a fast-food Chinese restaurant at 1728 Dorchester Ave. Two days later, on Jan. 10, a gunman opened fire during the evening rush-hour near Peabody Square, wounding an unidentified 20 year-old Dorchester man. Police believe the victim was the intended target of the assault, which one police source says may have been triggered by a dispute on an MBTA bus. Sources say four shots were fired in the incident. The gunman was seen running past Ashmont station in the direction of Gallivan Boulevard.
Then, just after 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, 20 year-old Tyrone Hicks was shot and killed in Fields Corner in what police say was another ambush-style attack. The shooting happened near the corner of Arcadia and Adams street, just steps from the avenue and within a block of a Boston Police officer who is assigned to a walking beat in the business district. The police officer came upon the scene within moments - and saw a suspect fleeing on foot.
The victim, Hicks, is "known to police," according to several sources, including one close to the investigation who said Hicks is connected to an ongoing gang feud.
Dorchester Avenue has seen its share of violence before. Two people were shot dead in July 2006 during an early morning incident outside the Tara Pub across from Ashmont Station. And, in November 2005, a young man was shot and killed at the corner of Monsignor Lydon Way and Dorchester Ave. Last November, a young man was shot in a non-fatal afternoon shooting outside the Venice Pizza shop at the corner of Savin Hill Avenue.
Yet, the close proximity of last week's shootings - and the afternoon gunfire in busy Peabody Square and Fields Corner - has sent a chilling message.
One longtime activist, Barry Mullen - who regularly tracks crime activity in and around the St. Mark's Area - issued a warning to his e-mail chain last Thursday. Mullen speculated that a "revenge war" was fueling the most recent shootings and advised people to "please if possible stay off Dorchester Ave. until the community gets more information. If you must travail in our community please stay aware."
Roseanne Foley, an Ashmont Hill activist who runs the Dorchester Environmental Health Coalition, rebutted Mullen's advice, saying that "the streets will only get more dangerous if we who are law-abiding abandon them."
City Councillor Maureen Feeney, in a letter sent to the Reporter this week, urged residents to "remain active" and not "let caution paralyze our daily lives."
"Our worst response to violence is fear," Feeney wrote. "We should not let a small group of street terrorists weaken or break our spirits."
This week, Capt. John Greland, who commands the police District C-11, said he could not say for sure whether there was any connection between the three shootings.
"The jury is still out on that," Greland said. While he said he understands the anxiety that the incidents have triggered, he does not feel that the Dorchester Avenue corridor is unsafe for the public. On Tuesday, Greland said he has assigned extra walking patrols in Peabody Square - using overtime funds - to beef up police presence.
Dan Larner, executive director of St. Mark's Area Main Streets, says that residents and merchants involved in that organization are resolved to defy the frightening message sent by the violence.
"We're not going to let it derail this neighborhood. There's a lot of good things happening here, it's mainly good people. These events won't define our neighborhood," said Larner.
In a development unrelated to the recent shootings, the Main Streets organization recently hired a new youth outreach worker who will work four days a week in the district.
Emmett Folgert, who works daily with at-risk teens through the Dorchester Youth Collaborative in Fields Corner, says his agency has recently stepped up programming and outreach as well, thanks to new funding. Folgert said that the spate of shootings on the avenue last week is surprising, but doubted that they were related.
"A mile around here is like ten miles," said Folgert. "We always say that Dorchester Ave. is a pretty safe place, knock on wood. But, I'm already hearing that folks are concerned about this kind of activity on Dorchester Ave.," Folgert said.
Foley, a former Boston cop, said that there is good reason for neighbors to feel frustrated, especially since many details of the two homicides are, by legal necessity, kept sealed as investigators probe the killings.
"I don't hold it against anyone if they feel they don't want to be out and about," said Foley. "But for me, I always have in back of my mind that I am making a statement about the safety of streets when I'm walking around.
"If a woman can walk down the street and be okay, it isn't that bad," said Foley.
Mullen said that residents need more assurances from investigators who have a better handle on the background of the cases.
"The police say they don't think they're connected, but they don't know," Mullen said. "I'm not saying to stay off of [Dot Ave.] indefinitely. I agree that people should walk wherever they want. But today it's a different ballgame. When you have this many so close together, I want to know what's going on."
16 year-old gunned down on Strathcona Road
A 16 year-old boy was shot multiple times and killed on a sidestreet near the busy intersection of Columbia Road and Washington Street on Tuesday night. Carlos Sierra was shot outside of 16 Strathcona Road at about 10:40 p.m., according to Boston Police. He died at Boston Medical Center.
Boston Police spokesperson Elaine Driscoll says that authorities are seeking the occupants of a grey or drak-green Honda with tinted windows that "is believed to have been in the area at the time of the shooting."
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Homicide Unit at 617-343-4470, call the anonymous Tip Line at 1-800-494-TIPS (8477) or text the word 'TIP' to CRIME (27463).