Four people have been killed in the past six days in Boston, a spike in violence as the city wrestles with the social impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including rising unemployment, evictions, missed mortgage payments, and the release of prisoners.
With a sunny Memorial Day weekend ahead and the state beginning a phased reopening, officials are worried more trouble might lie ahead.
“What we are seeing is that, unfortunately with COVID-19 and the significant uptick in unemployment and food and housing insecurity and the uncertainty and fear regarding what is happening in this global pandemic, and the added ingredient of the warm weather — we are seeing that there are lot of tensions and people are acting out,” said Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
Rollins, whose office arraigned one homicide suspect Friday and is trying to solve three other murders, added, “It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Rollins, Police Commissioner William Gross, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh also have expressed concern that the COVID-19-related release of some pretrial detainees and the parole of some convicted prisoners could generate something of a crime wave in Boston and Suffolk County as a whole.
Gross raised the concern Thursday night while at the Mildred Hailey Apartments, where two men were shot, one fatally. Walsh also cited it during an interview on WGBH-FM radio Friday afternoon.
But Rollins — who has taken a tough stance against violent crime suspects — said none of the recent violence can be directly connected to a COVID-19-related release, although research into the background of suspects is incomplete.
“Right now, I don’t see any of the individuals that we are charging … have been COVID-19 releases,’’ said Rollins, who also said she would publicly declare if such a person was charged with a new crime. “We are watching.”
She has taken a strong stance in favor of protecting pretrial detainees and sentenced inmates who faced the disease while in custody and has pressed for release when public safety won’t be compromised. Her office has opposed 56 percent of the 704 release requests filed by defense attorneys, she said.
Rollins and Gross were both at the sprawling Hailey complex — a Jamaica Plain landmark formerly known as the Bromley Heath housing development — Thursday night after gunfire broke out as two groups were gathered in the courtyard.
Two men were shot, one fatally, and responding officers were met with hostility by dozens of people as they searched for victims. Police recovered four handguns and arrested four people, including one man for allegedly trying to trip a police officer in a foot chase of an armed suspect.
While saying she did not know if there was a link between the gatherings of people and the shooting, Rollins noted that Thursday night was the second anniversary of a double homicide in the development. Killed during the 2018 incident were Christopher Joyce, 23, who was set to graduate from Salem State University, and Clayborn Blair, 58, a father of three. Both were innocent victims of gang violence, authorities have said.
Gross addressed the way the community responded to his officers.
“The hostilities were so bad that we had to deploy our emergency deployment teams from throughout the city to come and render assistance to the responding officers, who were just trying to help the victims of a crime,'' he said Thursday night.
City Councilor Matthew O’Malley, whose district includes the Hailey Apartments, said Friday he will push to have a full complement of police and social workers in city neighborhoods over the weekend.
“It’s an irrefutable fact that the crime rate goes up in summer,’’ O’Malley said. “And this is happening against the background where people have been inside for a long period. That increases my concern.”
O’Malley sponsors Hot Dog Night on Wednesdays in the Hailey development to build community partnerships with the police, residents, and social agencies. He called the response that police faced “very disheartening.”
Rollins noted that police had done an “exceptional” job at the Hailey Apartments. She also said her office had solved one of the four homicides with the arrest and court appearance Friday of Yaliek Allah-Barnes, 37, of Mattapan.
Allah-Barnes allegedly committed a brazen shooting that killed 49-year-old Derek Fitzpatrick. He was shot around noon Monday on Bernard Street in Dorchester. A motive has not been disclosed. Allah-Barnes pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and was ordered held without bail.
Authorities continue to investigate the following cases:
- Last Saturday at around 7:45 p.m., 56-year-old Paul Richards was shot on Bellevue Street in Dorchester. He was pronounced dead at a Boston hospital. No arrests have been made, and police have not discussed a motive.
- On Tuesday night around 9:40 p.m., 26-year-old Israel Mayhew was shot to death at Martini Park on Truman Parkway in Hyde Park, one of two people wounded by gunfire in a single incident. No arrests have been made.
During the incident Thursday night, police made the following arrests:
- Uhmari Bufford, 25, allegedly jumped out of his car while officers were responding to the double shooting and began to yell at officers, challenging them to fight him while demanding access to the crime scene. He is charged with interfering with police and disturbing the peace.
- Clifford Jones, 43, of Randolph, was allegedly found to have three firearms and is charged with three counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, three counts of possession of a large-capacity feeding device, and resisting arrest. .
- Rushon Hemingway, 23, of Springfield, allegedly was at the scene of the shooting while carrying a gun and ran off when police tried to stop him. He faces charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and resisting arrest.
- Tyron Blair-Battiste was charged with interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct after he allegedly tried to trip an officer.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh released a statement Friday evening addressing the recent spate of violence.
“One act of violence in our city is too much. The safety of all residents in our community is my first priority, and I thank the Boston Police Department for their work to keep our streets safe," Walsh said. "I urge anyone with information about these acts of violence to come forward, and we will continue our violence prevention work throughout this public health crisis.”
Jeremiah Manion and Danny McDonald of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.