Tyler J. Lawrence was killed last month by a stranger, an “evil man” who had “no connection” to the teenager when he approached him on foot and opened fire as Lawrence walked through his grandparents’ neighborhood in Mattapan, prosecutors said Friday.
Citing video footage and eyewitness accounts, Assistant District Attorney Julie Higgins said Csean A. Skerritt, 34, parked on Fremont Street at about 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 29, crossed the road, and walked toward Lawrence, an eighth-grader from Norwood who was listening to music.
“Moments later the fatal shots are fired,” Higgins said during Skerritt’s arraignment on a murder charge in Dorchester Municipal Court. “And the defendant is then captured on video running from that intersection with an object in his hand consistent to a firearm.” The shooting itself was not caught on camera, said a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden, and authorities did not describe the type of video footage that was obtained.
The evidence gathered so far has revealed “there is no connection” between Skerritt, a Dorchester resident who has been involved in the criminal justice system since he was 15, and Lawrence, who was “13 years, one month, and 26 days old” when he died, Higgins said.
“We don’t know what the motive is,” Hayden said after Skerritt’s arraignment. “I can’t, for the love of God, cannot imagine what would allow a 34-year-old man with evil intent to decide to shoot a 13-year-old boy five times at 11:30 on a Sunday morning, steps away from churches. I don’t know. We may never know.”
Immediately after the killing, Hayden and a Boston police superintendent said that they believed Lawrence was “targeted” by his assailant, drawing criticism from the teenager’s family who said the term unfairly maligned him. Hayden’s spokesman later said that the DA used the term to convey that the shooter intended to fire at Lawrence, and that the confrontation didn’t involve a gunfight between groups, a drive-by shooting, or a person randomly shooting people on the street.
“The impetus of those comments were around whether or not the larger community needed to be concerned about random violence,” Hayden said Friday.
Not-guilty pleas were entered on Skerritt’s behalf to charges of murder and several firearm offenses, including one gun charge that carries a heftier penalty because he has three previous convictions for crimes involving drugs or violence. Municipal Court Judge Thomas A. Kaplanes ordered Skerritt to be held without bail. His defense attorney David A. Leon declined to comment.
Separately, Skerritt is in custody in a federal case in which prosecutors allege he sold about 55 grams of suspected fentanyl in Boston on Feb. 1 to a witness cooperating with the FBI, according to court records. He was arrested Feb. 5 in that case and is scheduled to appear on March 1 in US District Court in Boston for a hearing.
Skerritt is also awaiting trial in Rhode Island on a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute that was filed after police found him suffering from two gunshot wounds in Pawtucket on Feb. 5, 2020, according to a police report. Records filed in state and federal courts in Massachusetts describe Skerritt as being associated with a Boston street gang, and in 2017 he was acquitted in the shooting death of Julien Printemps in Dorchester.
Lawrence’s mother, Remy, and grandparents were in the courtroom for some of Skerritt’s arraignment, but the family departed before Higgins began describing Lawrence’s final moments. On the day he was killed, Lawrence was visiting his grandparents’ home in Mattapan, which Higgins described as the boy’s regular weekend routine.
At the time of his death, Lawrence was participating in a youth basketball program, learning to cook and play music at a teen center, and being mentored by the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization and the Paul Robeson Institute for Positive Self-Development, his family has said.
“I climbed the ladder, I moved to Norwood, I did everything that I thought I was supposed to do to give my son a chance,” Remy Lawrence said last month.
Higgins said Lawrence was “a young man just starting his life, full of much promise and he was loved, very much loved by his family.”
“That morning, just after 11 a.m., Tyler decided to go for a walk. He went for a walk as he would often do while listening to music. Video shows Tyler in the neighborhood, just walking by himself listening to music,” she said.
Police learned of the shooting from 911 calls from eyewitnesses and alerts from a gunshot detection system that reported the firing of five shots within two seconds in the area between Blue Hill Avenue and the intersections of Babson and Fremont streets, Higgins said.
Lawrence was pronounced dead at the scene, she said, and police found five shell casings near his body, which were “consistent with being fired from the same firearm.”
Higgins provided an overview of Skerritt’s criminal history in court, reaching back 19 years to describe his Suffolk Juvenile Court convictions for armed assault with intent to rob, assault with a dangerous weapon using a baseball bat, carjacking, and receiving stolen property.
In 2006, Middlesex Juvenile Court Judge Gwendolyn Tyre committed Skerritt, then 17, to the custody of the Department of Youth Services until he turned 21 after he admitted to stabbing a worker in the chest after he shoplifted several items from a Walgreens in Somerville, records show. The worker told the court he had permanent scars from 46 staples placed in his chest because of the stab wounds and feared he “was going to lose my life.”
In punishing Skerritt, Tyre wrote that he is “likely to re-offend as he has no remorse.”
While in DYS custody, court records show, Skerritt fled from chaperones who escorted him to a dentist appointment in 2007, leading a judge to revoke his probation and order him to spend 2½ years in a county jail after he aged out of the juvenile system, court records show.
His criminal history also includes convictions for attacking workers at correctional facilities in Plymouth and Boston and convictions for firearms offenses in Boston from 2011 and 2014, court records show. In both firearms cases, Skerritt served time in state prison and was ordered to spend time on probation after he was freed, Higgins said. He violated the terms of his probation in both cases, she said, and returned to prison to serve additional time.
In 2021, State Police charged Skerritt with cocaine trafficking after pulling over a rental car he was driving through Fall River, court records show. But the charge was dropped last May, according to prosecutors, after Skerritt’s defense lawyer argued that troopers didn’t have probable cause to stop the vehicle, which was registered in Florida. The troopers stopped Skerritt for a possible window tint violation, his lawyer argued, but the state law governing window tints doesn’t apply to vehicles registered outside Massachusetts.
Skerritt is due back in the Dorchester court on the murder case on March 17, but Higgins said she expects a grand jury will indict him before then.
Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed.