A Dorchester man charged with the attempted murder of 21 Boston police officers allegedly admitted opening fire early Monday as police responded to looting in the Back Bay, an action he took because he was angry police hit the windshield of his car as they tried to stop him from backing into another vehicle a short time before, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
John K. Boampong Jr.'s alleged confession and the details of what led to the most serious threat faced by police when looting broke out early Monday was described by Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Fitzgerald while asking Boston Municipal Court Judge Paul M. Treselerto find that Boampong poses a danger to the community and should be held without bail for at least 120 days.
“He essentially admitted to firing the gun,’’ Fitzgerald told Treseler during a telephonic court hearing Wednesday. “He does state he wasn’t pointing at anyone. And the reason he did it was he was so upset that the officer hit his windshield when they were trying to direct him as he was going in reverse.”
Police estimated 10 shots were fired; no officers or civilians were struck by the gunfire, Fitzgerald said.
Boampong was one of 53 people arrested late Sunday and early Monday in Boston after dozens of people began looting stores in Downtown Crossing and the Back Bay, violent acts that broke out long after the end of a peaceful march attended by thousands protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis allegedly by a former Minneapolis police officer.
Defense attorney Gerasimos Antzoulatosacknowledged that Boampong made a statement to police about playing a role in the shots fired incident. But, he said, authorities cannot meet the legal requirement of proving he intended to shoot at anyone and as such the criminal charges will eventually be dismissed.
“Even if Mr. Boampong was the person who shot this firearm, he could not have been possibly shooting at anyone at the corner of Arlington and Boylston Street” from the spot police allege the shots were fired because a building blocks the path a bullet would have traveled, he said. “There is very little chance of this case getting near a jury let alone a conviction.''
Boampong has pleaded not guilty to 25 charges, including 21 counts of armed assault with intent to murder based on the proximity of police to the bullets he allegedly shot in their direction.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, Treseler ordered Boampong held without bail for 120 days under the state’s dangerousness statute.
“I find probable cause existed for arrest. I find by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s release will endanger the safety of people of the community,'' Treseler wrote. “I further find that there are no conditions of release that will reasonably assure the safety of the people of the community. Pre-trial detention ordered.”
Before the judge issued his decision, Antzoulatos said Boampong can post $10,000 cash bail and would live with his sister in Dorchester. He also planned to resume working for the Instacart delivery company and return to managing a Boston sports bar once the Baker administration approves Phase 3 of the reopening plans. Boampong lost his job due to the pandemic, the attorney said.
“He has somewhere to go and he has some income when he gets out. He can still do Instacart,'' Antzoulatos told Treseler.
Boampong, 37, is the father of an 11-year-old boy who is a Boston Public Schools student and a lifelong resident of Massachusetts who graduated from Holyoke High School where he was a top athlete and participated in school drama programs. He has worked as a security guard, chef and in the restaurant industry, the attorney said.
"He has a lot of ties to the community,'' Antzoulatos said.
Antzoulatos asked Treseler to rule that Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office and police had failed to connect his client to the incident and also noted that his client could end up jail as along as a year because criminal trials are currently on hold until at least this September.
He cited a police photograph of the intersection of Boylston and Arlington streets where some ballistic evidence was recovered to support his argument that Boampong could not have been the shooter. A building, he said, blocks the path a bullet would have had to take.
According to Fitzgerald and police reports, Boampong was driving a car with three other people through the city and ended up near the intersection of Arlington and Boylston streets around 3 a.m. as police were reacting to looting on Newbury Street and other Back Bay stores.
Police told Boampong he could not drive further that way, leading to an exchange of words between him, the passengers and police. Boampong was ordered to drive away and he was reversing the car, he was heading towards officers standing on the street and into a vehicle behind him. An officer hit the windshield with a baton to make him stop, Fitzgerald said.
Boampong drove away but circled back to Arlington Street, driving at a high rate of speed and illegally passing another car until the car was driven onto Providence Street where the brakes were applied, activating the brake lights, Fitzgerald said.
“Within seconds, shots rang out,” she said. “The officers had to take cover believing they were shot at.”
Boampong was taken into custody after a short pursuit near 200 Boylston St., and police allegedly observed a handgun on the floor of the front passenger seat Fitzgerald said.
“He indicated that he was not shooting at the officers. He kept saying it wasn’t at the officers. He continued to talk about the officer hitting the windshield. … He doesn’t seem to understand the seriousness of the fact that he fired a gun,'' she said.
Boampong’s car was taken to police headquarters, the department said in a statement Wednesday night. Police obtained a search warrant for the car and recovered a 9-mm SIG Sauer P320 pistol in the locked position — indicating the gun had recently been fired — containing an empty 15-round magazine, police said.
Boampong has a minimal criminal history that includes a 2019 case pending in Brockton District Court on a charge of assault and battery on a police officer for allegedly intervening when police tried to breakup a fight at a bar
He also has been named as a defendant in two separate restraining orders, Fitzgerald said.