Mistaken ID faulted in slaying of Boston officer’s stepson
Editor’s note: Baltimore’s top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, is in the spotlight now after announcing charges against six officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Mosby has said in the past that the death of a 17-year-old cousin, who was mistaken for a drug dealer, outside her home in Boston spurred her interest in the justice system. Below is a Boston Globe story at the time of the shooting.
The stepfather of a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed Friday night as he sat on a bicycle a few feet from his Dorchester home said yesterday he believed his stepson’s death was a case of mistaken identity.
‘‘My personal opinion is that the gunman probably thought my son was a runner, carrying drugs or carrying money,” said Preston Thompson, a Boston police officer.
Diron Spence, Thompson’s stepson, was gunned down around 8 p.m. across from his grandfather’s home while on his way to visit his girlfriend. Within minutes of the shooting, Kevin Denis, 18, of Dorchester was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm and, later, with homicide.
Spence’s family yesterday stood outside their home, accepting condolence calls from friends and neighbors. The family members, who live in neighboring houses on McLellan Street, alternately smiled and cried as they talked about the Diron Spence they said no one seems to want to publicize.
They talked of Spence -- the good student, the caring brother, the hard worker, the talented artist -- and how he has been obscured by the shadow of his violent death.
Some have tried to link Spence to drugs and crime, instead of accepting that the Lynnfield High School student was an innocent victim, said Prescott Thompson, the boy’s grandfather.
The killer may have noticed the saddle pouch attached to the bicycle, which Spence borrowed from his father, and thought Spence was using it to store drugs or money, said Preston Thompson, who is assigned to the operations division at Boston police headquarters.
Spence’s grandfather said after hearing gunshots, a neighbor allegedly noticed Denis, who also goes by the aliases Kevin Montes and Kevin Nance, running from the corner of McLellan and Bradshaw streets. The man followed Denis, watching him pull a ski mask from his face and walk toward a house on nearby Fowler Street, the grandfather said.
The neighbor phoned police on the cellular phone he carried, prompting officers to discover Denis 15 minutes after the shooting, hiding in a home on Fowler Street with a handgun by his side, said grandfather Prescott Thompson, a former Boston police officer.
Denis was “known to police,” said Boston Police Deputy Superintendent James Claiborne yesterday. Claiborne refused to explain how Denis was known and if he previously had been arrested. A law enforcement source says Denis was arrested once as a juvenile, although the source did not know the nature of the charges.
Claiborne said police still are investigating motives in the case.
Denis told officers he lived at a home on Marie Street in Dorchester, but a resident at the home yesterday said Denis never lived there. Claiborne said Denis may have given police a false address.
While initial police and media reports claimed Spence was slain during an attempt to steal his sneakers, that alleged motive did not wash with Spence’s stepfather.
“I don’t believe that at all,” Preston Thompson said. “It’s not like they were $200 shoes. They were sneakers he bought on sale.”
Spence bought the pair of $55 sneakers at a shoe sale the day before he was killed. On the day of the shooting, he returned to the store to buy a pair of sneakers as a gift for his 14-year-old brother.
Each week after putting away $150 for college and giving $50 to his mother for household expenses, Spence, who worked as a lifeguard at a Hyde Park pool, was left with about $100 for himself.
“I watched him to see what he’d do with it,” Preston Thompson said. ‘‘He’d use the money to get to work and back and to buy himself lunch.”
Spence was a responsible boy, who was saving money to go to college next year and to buy a car. He was dedicated to his summer job and to being a positive role model for his younger brother, he said.
“Now, he’s the only boy,” Preston Thompson said Spence’s brother. “His example is gone. The person he wanted to emulate is gone.”
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MEMO: Contributing Reporter Elie G. Kaunfer provided material for