JACKSON SQ.—The 2007 shooting death of a 13-year-old boy was a murderous case of mistaken identity fueled by a youth turf war, according to police and prosecutors, who last week charged two teenagers from the New Academy Estates housing development with murder.
Nuradeen Alabi, 19, of 5 Dimock St. and Darrell Rodrigues, 17, of 2915 Washington St. are accused of shooting Mission Hill resident Luis Gerena several times as he walked home Jan. 12, 2007 through the Bromley-Heath housing development.
Prosecutors claim that Alabi and Rodrigues mistakenly thought Gerena was a Bromley-Heath resident, confronting and shooting him “as part of an ongoing feud between two groups of youths” from the housing developments, according to a Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office press statement. Alabi is accused of the actual shooting. Gerena was shot five times in the torso and back, according to the DA’s Office.
“[T]he defendants were Academy Homes associates looking for Heath Street victims,” said DA’s Office spokesperson Jake Wark in an e-mail to the Gazette. “Luis Gerena was not gang-involved in any way—he had the misfortune to have stayed late at school and the audacity to walk home through his own neighborhood.”
Alabi and Rodrigues both pleaded innocent to charges of murder and illegal gun possession at a May 9 court hearing. They were held without bail, though both were already in custody for other incidents. Rodrigues was in a state Department of Youth Services facility, and Alabi was serving time for drug possession, according to Wark.
Police and prosecutors have described Gerena’s killing as gang-related. But, Wark said, that does not mean a traditional organized criminal gang.
“The gangs as we know them in Boston are not organized hierarchically…and their enemies often shift over time,” Wark said. “I certainly wouldn’t consider this a gang hit or anything like that.”
Instead, he said, prosecutors are basically accusing Alabi and Rodrigues of going out to make trouble on the streets for any rival youths they met.
As the Gazette previously reported, the definition of a “gang” and the possible stereotyping of troubled youths was one issue raised at a recent community meeting about the April 21 killing of a Dorchester man in the Southwest Corridor Park. [See related article.]
New Academy Estates sits on the Jamaica Plain/Roxbury border right behind the older Academy Homes I housing development at Columbus Avenue and Ritchie Street. Academy I stands on the other side of Jackson Square from Bromley-Heath, with the T station in the middle.
Sometimes violent turf conflicts between Academy I and Bromley-Heath youths have been an issue for at least 15 years. Over the years, some of the shooting and stabbing incidents have been attributed to mistaken identity. It is unclear how New Academy fits into the turf boundaries.
Bromley-Heath residents and management have sometimes criticized media coverage of such crimes. After an outbreak of related shootings in Academy I and Bromley-Heath in 1994, some residents complained that major media were stereotyping all kids and adults in the developments as violent criminals.
Gerena’s killing, which came a few months after a massive federal drug raid in Bromley-Heath, led the Boston Herald at the time to editorialize that the development was “ill-maintained and crime-ridden,” among other criticisms.
Shortly after that, more than 150 residents and associates of the Bromley-Heath attended a meeting to express their outrage and point out that the development is peaceful most of the time. Many residents also particularly noted that Gerena was not a resident of the development. Now it turns out that the people charged with killing him aren’t associated with the development, either.
In a press statement last week, the Boston Police Department credited “extensive cooperation from the community and witnesses” with helping detectives identify the suspects.
David Worrell of the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation did not return a Gazette phone call for this article.
New Academy has also been the scene of recent violence. In September, 2007, a man was shot to death on his porch in a Roxbury side of the development. Two men were recently charged with that killing, which prosecutors have described as “random.”