Enice Roberts was walking home from the grocery store Wednesday night, navigating the icy streets with his cane when he heard footsteps behind him.
He turned around and saw three men behind him; one holding a gun. Roberts, a 33-year-old father who was left disabled following a brain aneurism, could see a red laser light pointed at his chest.
“I thought I was going to die,” said Roberts, who believed he was about to be robbed.
But the man wielding the gun, according to Suffolk prosecutors, was a 30-year-old Boston police officer. Sandro Fonseca, a South Boston patrol officer who joined the force in 2008 after six years as a US Marine, had been drinking heavily and hanging out with his friends, according to a police report.
Fonseca pleaded not guilty Thursday in Roxbury District Court to charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and carrying a firearm while intoxicated. He listened from behind a partially open door, hiding his face from a throng of reporters at the courthouse, as a prosecutor read from a police report describing the incident. His lawyer, Kenneth Anderson, asked that his face be concealed because there are questions about how well the witnesses can identify the assailant.
Five months ago Fonseca was praised by his superiors for his actions against a drug dealer who shot at his partner in a South Boston housing project. Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis awarded him a commendation for shooting the suspect in the chest as the suspect fired at Fonseca’s partner. Both the suspect and Fonseca’s partner, who was in court Thursday, survived the July 16 confrontation.
“He is a highly regarded, decorated police officer,” said Anderson. “He saved his partner’s life.”
Anderson said his client still smelled of alcohol when he spoke with him 12 hours after his arrest.
He asked Judge Pamela Dashiell to release Fonseca on personal recognizance and send him to an alcohol treatment center for 30 days. She instead granted the prosecution’s request of $5,000 bail and ordered the officer to stay away from Roberts and his fiancee, Mikia Steed, 29, who live just a few doors down from him on Forest Street in Roxbury. Fonseca was also ordered to remain drug and alcohol free and to submit to random urine tests.
Steed and Roberts had earlier asked the judge to issue a harassment prevention order against the officer, but she denied it, citing state law that requires proof of three separate acts of harassment.
Roberts was talking on his cellphone to Steed when Fonseca allegedly pointed the gun. Panicked, Roberts screamed into the phone and Steed hung up to call 911. As she spoke with the operator, she ran outside, where Fonseca allegedly confronted her with his weapon, using vulgar language.
Fonseca’s friends allegedly told Steed that he was drunk and goofing off. The men then went into Fonseca’s apartment, where police arrived moments later.
According to the report, Fonseca answered the door, holding a police radio in his right hand. He spoke incoherently, according to a police report. When one of the officers patted him down, a loaded .380 Smith & Wesson with a laser sight fell to the floor. The laser light was on, and there was one round in the chamber.
“Gun,” the officer yelled, pushing Fonseca toward two other officers who placed him in handcuffs and took him outside.
Steed said she remains terrified.
“I don’t know what he was thinking,” she said as she stood in the courthouse Thursday. “I don’t even know who to trust anymore. I’m so nervous. . . . I thought he was supposed to protect us.”
Fonseca was born in Cape Verde and came to the United States when he was 16, said Anderson. He went to Jeremiah Burke High School and joined the Marines in 2002.
He was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, from March 2006 to October 2006, his only tour of duty in that region. He was awarded numerous honors, including the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He left the service with the rank of sergeant.
Since his arrest, Fonseca has been on paid administrative leave from the Police Department. Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey personally removed the firearms found in Fonseca’s apartment. The department’s Anti-Corruption Unit is conducting an internal investigation of the case.