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Chinatown shootings put focus on a tiny street

Late-night crowds trouble the area

Investigators collected evidence at the scene on Edinboro Street while onlookers watched.

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Investigators collected evidence at the scene on Edinboro Street while onlookers watched.

Looking at the shell casings littering the sidewalk and police swarming the scene, Steven Bellardino thought he’d wandered onto a movie set Sunday morning in Chinatown — the Whitey Bulger movie, maybe, that was shooting near his home in Revere.

But this was a different kind of shooting.

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Four men were taken to area hospitals with injuries that were described as not life-threatening after the shooting on Edinboro Street. Melvin Smith, 27, of Mattapan, was arrested after nearby police officers heard gunshots shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday and allegedly saw him flee the scene.

The violence surprised Bellardino, a regular at Sunday morning dim sum. But residents and others said the narrow, one-block street’s overnight persona — where crowds come for late-night meals and drug users congregate — has been increasingly troubled in recent years.

Smith, who is “known to police,” according to a statement from the Boston Police Department, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and has previously been convicted on gun charges. Police said an “officer’s firearm was discharged” but did not injure anyone.

They released no motive for the shootings of the four men, who were between 22 and 27 years old.

Two of the victims were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, one to Tufts Medical Center, and one to Boston Medical Center, said Boston police spokeswoman Officer Rachel McGuire. In their statement, police classified three of the injuries as minor.

Smith will be arraigned Monday in Boston Municipal Court, according to police.

On Sunday morning, police collected evidence at the busy south end of Edinboro, a street lined with apartments and businesses that forms a U-shaped loop with Kingston Street at the edge of Chinatown Park.

Dozens of residents sat on park benches, watching as police peered through the rear window of a black Lexus sports sedan and took photographs before opening the car and retrieving a firearm, one of two recovered. Police also towed two cars from a nearby lot.

Bustling with shoppers and dim sum diners on a Sunday morning, the neighborhood — particularly the alley-like Edinboro Street — brings a very different sort of bustle during the night, residents said.

The neighborhood attracts people from all over the city, many coming for late-night meals at area restaurants after partying until closing time at nightclubs.

McGuire said police are also aware of drug activity and have responded to complaints from businesses by increasing patrols.

“This place is crazy at night,” said a man who gave his name as Charlie. As he watched police work the scene, he said he had been there about 30 minutes before the shooting.

“There were kids over here getting high, buying and selling drugs,” he said. “And then there are guys coming out of the clubs.”

He said the two groups have little reason to interact. He provided only his first name because, he said, he was among the group using drugs. He was walking away with a friend, “smoking a joint,” he said, when he heard the sirens.

He said the name of the alleged shooter was not familiar, and he did not know who had been shot. “The kids hanging with me wouldn’t be driving a Lexus,” he said.

A woman who lives in an apartment building overlooking the scene said she was awakened by the gunshots, too many to count, and looked out the window to see people picking up hats and shoes that had been strewn around the street.

Residents are not the source of the problems, she said. She asked that her name not be used because the area is dangerous at night.

Michael Riley, who said he used to live nearby and studied martial arts at an academy on Edinboro Street, said the neighborhood — particularly the park area adjacent to Edinboro Street — has become increasingly troubled over the years.

“You’ve got streetwalkers, of course,” Riley said, “and drug dealers. [And] in Chinatown, there’s still illegal gambling.”

Gambling and violence have a long history in Chinatown, where five people were shot to death — a sixth survived — at a card game in 1991. Two men are serving life sentences in the slayings.

Globe correspondents Todd Feathers and Melissa Hanson contributed to this report. Nestor Ramos can be reached at nestor.ramos@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.
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