A Dorchester man was fatally shot during a confrontation along a busy stretch of Columbia Road yesterday, sending passersby scattering for cover as police chased a suspect, who eluded capture.
“I heard a loud pop; it sounded like a car crash,” said Arlene Hall, pastor of Deliverance Temple of God, at Columbia Road and Devon Street, about 20 feet from where the victim, identified by relatives as Andrew Keith, 22, was shot multiple times about 3:30 p.m.
A suspect fled on foot west along Devon Street toward Blue Hill Avenue and lost police after three or four blocks, said Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Rafael Ruiz. Police did not issue a description of the suspect.
Keith’s body, covered in a white sheet, remained on the street for about two hours while investigators and uniformed officers spanned the area looking for ballistics evidence and witnesses.
Nearly 30 minutes after the homicide, police responded to another shooting about a mile away, at Gleason and Harvard streets in Dorchester. The victim was shot in the back and is expected to survive. Ruiz said police are trying to determine whether the shootings are connected.
Police closed off about a mile of Columbia Road for several hours, diverting rush-hour traffic to side streets. People attempting to return to their homes were turned back, as yellow tape cordoned off intersections. Dozens of on-lookers gathered near the tape’s perimeter, and as the victim’s name traveled by word of mouth through the crowd, several teary-eyed women used cellphones to describe the scene to those they called.
Keith’s aunt, grandmother, sister, girlfriend, and several other relatives and friends showed up at the scene and consoled one another. His aunt, who asked not to be identified, said Keith had a 4-year-old daughter and was trying to turn his life around.
“They didn’t care that he had changed,” she said, tearfully watching authorities lift Keith’s body into the back of a medical examiner’s truck. “It could be four years later, and if they see you, they don’t care; they just remember what happened four years ago. He was enrolled in a school learning construction.”
Relatives would not comment when asked whether Keith had a criminal background. The district attorney’s office was unable to confirm last night whether Keith had a criminal history. Relatives said Keith graduated from Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester and was an avid basketball player.
The Rev. William E. Dickerson walked the victim’s family and friends from the scene, and counseled them as they sat in a white sedan on Columbia Road.
“It’s so sad, the last memory they’ll have of him is his body on the street,” said Dickerson, who minutes earlier had been at the scene of the second shooting in Dorchester.
In that incident, one neighbor said she was on the phone when she heard a loud boom.
“I heard more than five shots,” said the seven-year resident of Harvard Street, who did want her name published because a suspect had not been caught. “I didn’t think to look out the window until I heard the helicopter and the police and saw the tape. I thought to myself: `Oh, my God. It’s time to move.”‘
Orange evidence cones were scattered around a blue-and-gray three-decker, one resting atop a silver Chrysler parked in front of 150 Harvard St. As the male victim was treated for his wounds at Boston Medical Center, detectives searched neighboring houses at 148 and 152 Harvard St., even ripping off shingles to gather evidence.
Dickerson was driving to his church on Nightingale Street when he rode past the second crime scene. He said he and other community leaders were working yesterday to stop any possible retaliation.
“If you don’t put out the fire right here, the fire could spread,” he said.