Walter L. Hendrick stood in a hallway hidden from public view Thursday as he pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and other charges related to the fatal shooting of his 12-year-old brother inside their Mattapan home.
Hendrick whispered to his lawyer, who told a Suffolk Superior Court magistrate that the 22-year-old said he was “crushed” by the death of his younger brother, Savion Ellis, in July and described it as a “tragic, tragic accident.”
“If he could trade his own life for his brother’s, he would,” defense attorney Susan Neff said.
Prosecutors allege that Hendrick owned the gun that was used to kill his brother, but have not said who is suspected of pulling the trigger. Nobody else has been charged in connection with Ellis’s death.
At his arraignment, Hendrick pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, improper storage of a large-capacity firearm near a minor, misleading police, and illegal possession of a gun and ammunition.
On July 13, police responded to the Fessenden Street home of the two brothers after their mother called 911 and said her son had been shot, according to Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Julie Higgins. Police found Ellis lying on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to his chest. His mother, Hendrick, and two younger siblings were also inside the house when officers arrived, Higgins said.
The boy was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. A medical examination found the bullet had pierced his heart and he suffered a close contact wound that indicated the barrel of the gun had been placed against his chest when it was fired, Higgins said.
Police found a gun with Hendrick’s fingerprint on it in the basement of the home, Higgins said. She said it was tucked up on a ceiling rafter next to a fanny pack that contained an ID for Hendrick and a glove with Hendrick’s fingerprint on it.
Hendrick is accused of misleading police immediately after the shooting by initially telling officers that his brother was shot at a nearby store and arrived home bleeding from the chest wound, according to Higgins. But about 20 minutes into his interview, Hendrick told police “that the gun was his, that the gun was in his room, and also [made] statements indicating that he had the gun at the time Savion was shot,” Higgins said.
Four supporters of Hendrick sat in the middle of the courtroom during the arraignment, one of them wiped away tears with a tissue. Hendrick’s attorney told the court that Hendrick has the “full support” of his and Ellis’s mother.
In July, Hendrick was charged in Dorchester Municipal Court with improper storage of a firearm and other charges, but his indictment elevated the case to Superior Court. Hendrick had been free on $2,500 bail and surrendered to police Wednesday on the new charges.
After that hearing, Ellis’s grandmother described the boy as “very helpful, loving, respectful.”
If Hendrick is convicted of all counts, he would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, including a mandatory minimum of four years for the improper storage of a gun charge.
On Thursday, Hendrick’s lawyer said he had no prior criminal record and requested $2,500 cash bail for him, but Magistrate Edward Curley granted the prosecutor’s recommendation of $250,000 cash bail.
Curley also ordered Hendrick to wear a GPS location monitoring device and to not leave Massachusetts if he is freed on bail.
Hendrick is scheduled to return to court Oct. 24.