Boston police arrested one man and are seeking another suspect in connection with a shooting at a barbecue in Dorchester last month that left a 15-year-old girl with life-threatening injuries and wounded her 11-year-old brother and three other people, authorities said.
Gianni Williams-Johnson, 24, of Dorchester, pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the Dorchester division of Boston Municipal Court to five counts of assault to murder and several weapons charges, including illegal possession of a a machine gun. He was ordered held on $1 million bail.
His lawyer declined to comment after the hearing.
An arrest warrant was issued for a second man, Micah Ennis, 24, of South Boston, who faces the same charges, police said.
“We commend the cooperation from the residents of our city who are fed up with these reckless acts, and the incredible work and dedication of our homicide unit who have been working this case round the clock,” Police Commissioner Michael Cox said in a statement announcing the charges. “We realize this can’t erase the pain and suffering of the children and adults who were injured in this outrageous shooting.”
The shooting occurred shortly after 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17 during a gathering on a patio in the Franklin Field public housing complex. The teenaged girl, Juliana Howard, was shot in the head and several times in the legs, according to her father, John Howard. During an interview last week he said that her condition had improved, but she continued to fight for her life.
Howard said his 11-year-old son, Johan Howard, was recovering at home from a gunshot wound to the leg.
On Tuesday, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Colleen Page said in court that Juliana Howard remained “near death.”
Judge Joseph Griffin Jr. granted the prosecution’s request to impound court filings related to the case after the prosecutor argued that the documents should be sealed from the public because two of the victims are minors and Ennis is still being sought by police.
Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden issued a statement calling gun violence “a societal epidemic.”
“The brutality of sending bullets flying where people were gathered and children were playing should shock and outrage all of us and should unite us — and I mean all of us, from every community and every sector and every level of society — against the glut of illegal guns in our city and the people so willing to use them,” Hayden said.
Mayor Michelle Wu, who thanked Boston police in a statement after the arrest, said, “Violence in our communities will not be tolerated, and we will continue to ensure there is accountability in such cases.”
She added, “As BPD continues their work in this incident, our hearts remain with the two young victims and their family, and we are praying for their full recovery.”
Court records show that Williams-Johnson had been charged in 2019 with carrying a loaded firearm without a license and other weapons charges, but those charges were dropped several weeks before the September shooting in Dorchester.
In the earlier case, Boston police stopped Williams-Johnson on Bernard Street in Dorchester for driving a car with excessively tinted windows, then seized a handgun with an extended magazine from the glove compartment, according to court filings.
In January, Suffolk Superior Judge Catherine Ham found that the search of the car was “racially motivated” and granted a defense request to suppress evidence involving the seizure of the gun. In August, prosecutors dropped the charges, saying they could no longer prove the case at trial.