West Side Stories: Yes, I spotted the ‘suspect’ running on Athelwold St.

It was barely 15 past 7 a.m. about three weeks ago when the day turned really weird really fast.

I had just gotten back from my morning walk-about, which had a little excitement beyond the norm. It was one of the first nice days of spring, nice enough where I could sit out on the front porch with my coffee and not have to pretend it was warm. I was still inside pouring my coffee when the phone rang. It was my wife.

“Hey, a police officer just came up to me as I was leaving the house for work,” she said. “They were asking if we had seen the suspect this morning.”

My muscles seized up and there was a silence on the phone.

When the police are looking for suspects around here, it’s not good news at any time of the day. I wondered what had happened – a shooting…a hit and run…Was my car intact? How did I miss all the action when I was outside earlier?

It had been a relatively quiet morning aside from that one interesting twist. But I had seen no evidence of police matters. Resigning to the idea that more violence had gone down, I asked her what she told the police.

“I told them you had seen the suspect,” she said over the phone.

My heart rate jumped. I hadn’t seen anything. I asked her why she would tell the police that I was involved and, if history dictates the present around here, I probably didn’t want to be involved in seeing any suspects.

She paused, then laughed – which I thought wholly inappropriate. “I’m talking about the coyote you saw,” she said, knowing she had given me a cardiac moment. “The police are out looking for a coyote. I guess someone called.”

That morning, the interesting twist in my walk was seeing a coyote come out of nowhere and jet down Athelwold Street at what seemed like the speed of light – dodging an oncoming school lunch delivery truck. It was a startling moment, and odd, but one you move on from. It is funny how wildlife has returned to this side of Dorchester.

This was my second coyote sighting over here, and while such things are common in Cedar Grove or Lower Mills, on this much-denser side of Dorchester, they are something rare indeed.

About 10 years ago, I looked on as three turkeys dropped out of the sky on July 4 and landed on my neighbor’s work truck. It was surreal at the time. I even sent in a picture to the Dorchester Reporter – and they ran it with excitement. Nowadays, you see turkeys around here four or five times a week. A whole family of them lives in Mother’s Rest Park like they own the place. They’re like squirrels now – just another part of this odd urban landscape.

So, yes, I did spot the suspect that morning, and if any BPD brass would like to swing by, I’m available for questioning.

Speaking of suspects – There has also been too much real violence – non-coyote related – over the past few months around here. Two weeks ago, when we had company from out of town staying with us, some young man squeezed off eight gunshots at an enemy in the street a few blocks away from our house. He hit no one, but the gunfire was enough to set the neighborhood on its side. It’s a really unpleasant reality to have to explain to guests that such things don’t happen that often, and that there is no reason to be scared. Of course, there is ample reason to be scared when you hear a firearm blasting in the street.

The young man was arrested on the spot, crime scene tape was deployed, and K-9 dogs scattered in every direction to do their sniffing. The kicker here is that the kid was from Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury – really? I looked him up and he had gone to Shrewsbury High, where he was a pretty good hoops player. This is happening more and more: Kids from the suburbs coming into our neighborhood and thinking anything goes. There must have been ample warning signs of this young man going off track for the good people of Shrewsbury to take note. But that’s just it: Too often they ship their issues off to Dorchester, Mass/Cass, and other locales. A key issue right here and now is the suburbs stepping up and taking care of their problems because I’m growing impatient with their dysfunction showing up on my street and causing mayhem. Believe me, we have our own issues; we don’t need theirs, too.

Cleanin’ Up –May 1 was the day for the annual citywide clean-up in the neighborhood, and the West of Washington neighborhood association was out in full force. My youngest daughter and I always hit up the Oliver Wendell Holmes School, a horribly disinvested school in the Boston Public School portfolio. It’s a tall order every year to try to clean it up, but kudos to my daughter, Taryn, who had a real good idea. She put on her roller hockey skates, grabbed a $2 trash picker, and rolled away. We were done in no time. You can sure get a lot done on wheels!

As an aside, a huge kudos to Councilor Andrea Campbell’s office and the BPS operations team for getting rid of prominent and long-standing gang graffiti on the school. After a year of my 3-1-1 calls made very little progress, they got action in a few day’s time last week. Now that’s really Loving Your Block – or whatever they call it now.

Farewell to friends – I can’t conclude this column without giving tribute to two long-time West of Washington residents – Neil Hogan and Arthur Sutton. These two men were gentleman of the first order, loved this neighborhood, and spent decades here. Both passed away over the last several months.

Neil was the first and only neighbor I’ve ever had in my adult life, and probably the best next-door one anyone could ask for. A generous man and a heck of a fisherman, he was a life-long Dorchester resident who was described at his funeral as a “cool gentleman.” I agree, but so much more can be said of someone who will be missed.

Arthur Sutton lived at the bottom of Athelwold Street for an eternity.

Many might have seen his name on the municipal ballot a few times. He had a seat at the end of the street, and he sat there often. He made keys for everyone in his workshop on Norwell, and at one time ran a pretty good neighborhood meeting. I met him first at the polling place 17 years ago when he was encouraging people to vote. He always had the good word. I’ll miss seeing him at the polls this fall.

Seth Daniel has been a resident of the West of Washington neighborhood for the last two decades, and enjoys re-telling stories of the oddities and edginess that are part of living in that part of Dorchester.

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