There was a time when Valerie Wright was optimistic about her son’s future once he returned to Dorchester after some 20 years in prison for shooting a man nine times. The first six weeks, when Dashaun J. Wright took the medication prescribed before his release in July, were peaceful as he couch-surfed with relatives, she said.
“Inside [prison] they had him on medication. When my son got out he was fine,” Valerie Wright told the Globe this week. But she said he stopped taking his medication. “Then I noticed a change in his behavior. ... My son became very aggressive around his family, not to hurt, but the way he was talking and so angry. It was scaring me and it was scaring his brother.”
Valerie Wright said her son was still unmedicated on Nov. 9 when he allegedly armed himself with a handgun, threatened the Dorchester family he was staying with, and then shot three Boston police SWAT officers, bringing a violent end to what had been a peaceful six-hour standoff in a Ferndale Street home.
The three officers were treated for serious injuries and all three have since returned home to recover, authorities said. Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office is now investigating the use of fatal force by police, one of five cases she has been reviewing since 2019.
Before the standoff and the gunfire between police and Wright, Valerie Wright said she pleaded with her 37-year-old son to take his medication. Dashaun Wright was convicted as an armed career criminal in 2004 in connection with a 2001 shooting in Roxbury of a man he blamed for shooting his cousin. He also was convicted of gun and violence charges as a juvenile, records show.
Wright said she pleaded with the Suffolk Superior Court Probation Department — which had authority over him for five years once he was released from prison — to use its power over him to insist (not ask) he restart the effective prescription.
Boston Police Superintendent in Chief Gregory Long said on Nov. 9 that Wright had suddenly opened fire on police who had spent the past several hours negotiating with him after he armed himself with a firearm and barricaded himself inside the Ferndale Street apartment around 9:30 a.m.
“That was all part of the negotiations with him, to have him surrender. They were still speaking with the individual,” Long said at a press conference. “Unexpectedly, he just fired upon the officers.”
“I can’t say enough about the professionalism, courage, and bravery that the officers show every day,” Long said.
Valerie Wright believes her son’s death was preventable — she insists police never contacted her or other family members during the standoff — but at the same time does not dismiss the possibility that it was also inevitable once her son realized he was likely going back to prison for the armed standoff.
“Because he was asked to leave, or whatever, he just lost it. At that moment, he realized he couldn’t come back. When he saw the cops all around him, he knew this was is it,” she said. “But I still say, don’t get me wrong, I still say that if someone reached out to his relatives ... He sat there for six hours. ... If they just called one of us.”
Valerie Wright, in particular, also believes that if police had reached out to Wright’s probation officer, they would have gotten her contact information and would have known about his current mental status and not just his convictions.
The spokesman for the Boston Police Department, Sergeant Detective John Boyle, declined comment when asked if police negotiators were in contact with Wright’s biological family during the standoff. He said police could not discuss the incident because of Rollins’s ongoing deadly force investigation.
In a statement on behalf of the Suffolk Superior Court probation office, spokeswoman Coria Holland wrote that probation officers did try to encourage Wright to stay on his medication.
“Probation is greatly saddened by the tragic death of Mr. Dashaun Wright and by the injuries suffered by the members of the Boston Police Department,” she wrote. “Probation made repeated efforts to help Mr. Wright and convince him to engage in treatment services in the brief period following his release from prison.”
At the request of the Globe, Holland provided more details of the probation department’s interaction with Wright in a second email sent to the Globe Thursday night around 10 p.m.
“Probation worked with Dashuan Wright throughout the four months following his release from an extended period of incarceration,” Holland wrote. “In addition to insuring compliance with court mandated conditions, Probation made persistent efforts, directly responsive to Mr. Wright’s circumstances, to provide him with housing, credentialing and other stabilization services supportive of his reentry. Unfortunately, he chose not to engage in these services. Working with him to overcome this resistance was the focus of our work with him during this initial phase of supervision.”
After the third wounded officer was released from the hospital last week, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association tweeted, “Knowing full well the road to recovery will be long, please keep the prayers and well wishes coming for our officers and their families.”
The fatal confrontation was the second time in three days that police used deadly force. On Nov. 6, according to police, one officer was stabbed in the neck in the stairwell of a house on Ingleside Street in Dorchester.
A second officer shot the suspect, who was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. He has since been identified as Michael A. Quarrles, 37, who had previously been convicted for assaulting police.
The wounded officer has since been released from the hospital.
Julie Clarke, whose family had let Wright live with them, said last week that Wright became enraged when he was asked to leave her home. She said Wright threatened people with a gun.
“I asked him to leave and he just pulled out a gun and put it to his brother’s head,” Clarke told reporters.
Valerie Wright said she is aware that her son’s reaction was excessive given the reasonable request by Clarke and her family. But, she said, she believes police’s view of her son was too heavily focused on the phrase ‘armed career criminal.’
“He was sick, he was sick,’' she said. “What happened to a second chance in life?”