WINTHROP — Edward Rossi had just taken a seat on the couch of his Shirley Road home with a copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand” on Saturday afternoon when he heard a loud collision. He hurried to his front door, and witnessed a scene that shattered the peaceful, breezy calm of the day.
A gray GMC Terrain lay smoking and smashed up amid the ruin of a neighbor’s wooden gate. The engine block and hood were mangled. Debris from the crash littered the street. Judging from the condition of the car, he feared for every passenger’s life.
Twenty yards farther up the street, Rossi spotted another vehicle — a large white box truck — that had plowed through the front of a small home on the corner of Cross and Shirley streets, reducing it to a pile of bricks and rubble.
Rossi rushed to help those within the wrecked SUV. He pulled open one of the vehicle’s back doors. The two women in the front of the vehicle were alive and lucid, but in the back seat, another woman was screaming wildly for help. She grabbed Rossi’s arm and didn’t let go.
“Don’t leave me!” she pleaded.
Rossi’s wife, Colleen McGinty, immediately called 911 to report the crash and then decided to go check on the driver of the white box truck. She made it maybe five steps before she heard gunfire.
“It was mayhem,” said Rossi. “No one knew what was going on.”
Those gunshots have since been traced back to the truck’s driver, a 28-year-old Winthrop resident named Nathan Allen, who later murdered two Black people in their 60s in what officials are investigating as a hate crime. The spree of terror lasted less than 15 minutes and ended when a police sergeant fatally shot Allen.
It all began when Allen — armed with two firearms — broke into the white truck in a parking lot at the end of Argyle Street, a short road filled with auto repair shops, according to Winthrop Police Chief Terence M. Delehanty. It is not known how Allen was able to start the truck, but upon doing so he drove through a low metal gate, rumbled down the small commercial side street, and headed south toward Shirley Street. He turned onto the tight, two-lane street and barreled eastward, colliding with the GMC Terrain head-on.
What exactly Allen planned to do with the truck remains unclear. Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Sunday that investigators had found “some troubling white-supremacist rhetoric” in Allen’s own handwriting and noted that there are many synagogues in Winthrop, including two within a mile of Argyle Street.
“We don’t know where he was going; that is mere speculation,” Rollins said. “We do know he had antisemitic rhetoric written in his own hand.”
Regardless of his intended destination, Allen lost control of the truck after hitting the GMC and careened into a corner home at the intersection of Shirley and Cross streets around 2:45 p.m. The sound of the crash reverberated throughout the bustling neighborhood, catching the attention of neighbors blocks away. While residents were jumping into action, Allen escaped the crashed truck, ran toward a nearby blue Saab hatchback, and climbed into the back seat.
At first, the driver, Paulo Correia, assumed Allen was injured and needed help. But after Allen repeatedly and tersely ordered him to drive, Correia ordered him out of the car. To his surprise, Allen obliged. Seconds later, Correia heard gunfire and looked in the rearview mirror to see a woman — later identified as 60-year-old Air Force veteran Ramona Cooper — lying in the middle of Shirley Street near an auto repair shop. Cooper later died at the hospital.
Among those startled by the crash were David Green and Bill Leach, who were chatting in Green’s yard on Beach Street when they heard the commotion two blocks away. The neighbors rounded the corner from Beach Street to Shirley Street and saw Cooper on the ground and Allen with a gun in hand. Green, a Vietnam War veteran and a retired police officer, pulled Leach into a nearby alley on Shirley Street to take cover.
Meanwhile, Allen made his way across the repair shop’s parking lot and toward another entrance to the alley Green had ducked into, according to Grace Kingsbery, a schoolteacher who peered down on the chaos from a window of her Beach Street home, overlooking Shirley Street and Veterans Road. Allen disappeared from her sight, but within a minute, she heard multiple shots ring out below. Police would later discover Green dead in the alleyway with seven gunshot wounds to the head, neck, and torso after trying to disarm the gunman.
By then, Sergeant Nicholas Bettano of the Winthrop police had arrived on the scene. Spotting Allen with a gun, he commanded Leach, who had left the alleyway before Green’s slaying, and another neighbor named Kim Carrillo to take cover. They crouched near the side of a dry cleaner on the corner. Then Allen rounded that same corner.
“I looked up and the [shooter] was standing right beside us,” recalled Leach.
“He could have shot us. No doubt,” said Carrillo, fighting back tears. “The officer yelled, ‘Put the gun down!’ So now he went toe-to-toe with the officer. And we just prayed and kept our heads down.”
Bettano again yelled at Allen to drop his weapon, said Carrillo, but the gunman kept fiddling with his firearm.
“Bang, he shot him,” Carrillo said of Bettano. “The kid went down right here.”
Allen fell to the ground in the parking lot of the dry cleaner. He later died from his injuries.
Leach returned to the alleyway to alert Green that the gunman had been taken down. But when he arrived he found the 68-year-old lifeless on the pavement. Green had spent the morning delivering fruit to his friend’s house in Nahant. That same friend had texted Green that afternoon warning that there was an active shooter on Shirley Street. He never received a response.
Throughout his rampage, Allen had walked by several people who were not Black, and they were not harmed, Rollins said.
“They are alive, and these two visible people of color are not,” Rollins said.
By Monday afternoon, the stolen box truck and totaled GMC had been towed away. Shrines of flowers, prayer candles, and homemade signs lay near the sites where Cooper and Green had been shot to death. The chaos and confusion of the Saturday had subsided. Grief and anger had taken its place.
Carrillo stood on a patch of concrete and pointed to a spot not more than 10 feet from where she’d been huddled two days earlier.
“This is where his body was,” she said, referring to Allen.
Since the shooting, she has been plagued by questions that might never be answered. What prompted the burst of violence? How did the shooter approach Green, a retired state trooper who would’ve been well-versed in taking cover amid a shootout?
“Why didn’t he shoot me?” she asked, before trailing off.
John R. Ellement, Laura Crimaldi, and Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.