LAWRENCE — Instead of doing last-second shopping for gifts, preparing their feast, or accommodating holiday guests on Christmas Eve, members of Johann Miranda’s family caught a glimpse of his alleged killer in court here Monday morning, nearly a year after his death.
On the morning of New Year’s Eve 2011, Miranda’s family members received a call from police that left them grieving as the most festive hours of the year approached. Miranda, 29, the father of two boys, was fatally shot at 1:20 a.m. in front of a food truck parked near 56 Jackson St.
“One day, I wake up and I don’t have the older brother that I had for the past 24 years, and that’s something that’s never going to escape my mind, especially when it happened,” said Ruben Miranda, 25.
“I’ll never be able to go out, party, do anything on New Year’s Eve because of that,” Miranda said. “This guy not only robbed my brother of his life, he also shaped the way our lives will be . . . and the way his kids will grow up without a father.”
Josue Diaz, 27, of Lawrence, was charged Monday in Lawrence District Court with Miranda’s murder. Judge Barbara Pearson ordered him held without bail and scheduled a probable cause hearing for Jan. 30.
Diaz pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head during the arraignment in an attempt to conceal his face from cameras. His lawyer, James B. Krasnoo, pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf.
In a telephone interview several hours after the arraignment, Krasnoo said the prosecution’s case against his client is “misguided.”
“There’s more to this than meets the eye,” he said, declining to comment on whether self-defense will be alleged.
Prosecutors declined to discuss any possible motive in the fatal shooting, but Miranda’s relatives said that someone among Diaz’s group yelled derogatory remarks at Miranda about his Dominican heritage before bullets rang out.
Miranda graduated from Madison Park High School in Roxbury, then moved to Fairhaven.
He worked at the Stop & Shop supermarket there and was engaged, family members said.
On the night of his death, he traveled to Boston and then to Lawrence with two friends, to have a couple of drinks and then go to a nightclub. The club had closed, so the trio stopped at a food truck to eat before heading home.
“They were waiting for their food and all of a sudden these individuals approached them and a fight turned into violence,” said Sarah Terrero, the victim’s cousin, standing in a hallway outside the courtroom, tears streaming down her eyes.
“They were trying to avoid the fight, according to his friends, trying to avoid it,” Terrero said. “They said, ‘Stop, we don’t want to fight, just leave us alone.’ ”
Authorities interviewed six witnesses in recent months. One told police of involvement in the altercation and leaving the scene with Diaz. Another described seeing Diaz fighting Miranda.
Two witnesses told authorities that Diaz stated, in their presence, that he shot and killed someone at the food truck.
And a witness interviewed by police on Sunday identified Diaz as the person who reached into his waistband “as if he were grabbing a gun,” according to court records.
Diaz was arrested Sunday evening at his home.
Two days prior to the fatal shooting on Jackson Street, Diaz was arrested in an apparently unrelated incident. He allegedly attempted to set fire inside the Whitman Street apartment he shared with his girlfriend and their 15-month-old son, both of whom were inside the dwelling at the time.
The girlfriend’s year-old nephew was also present, according to a police report.
The girlfriend told police that Diaz was suicidal, and had repeatedly threatened to kill himself because she told him she wanted to break up with him, according to the report.
Diaz was charged with assault and battery and attempting to burn personal property. That case was set to go to trial in two weeks, according to court records, but now authorities are determining whether to postpone it in light of the homicide charge.
Terrero said her deceased cousin was planning to start a towing business, so he could better provide for his family.
“He had a lot of plans this year, he always wanted to be his own boss.”