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Before shooting, former English High dean was to be fired

Rev. Shaun Harrison facing new charges

The Rev. Shaun O. Harrison Sr. is accused of trying to murder a student.
The Rev. Shaun O. Harrison Sr. is accused of trying to murder a student.(Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/File)

The Rev. Shaun O. Harrison Sr. was set to be fired from his job as a dean at English High School for shoving a female student just hours before the minister and antiviolence activist allegedly shot a 17-year-old boy in the head, city officials disclosed Monday.

After his arrest last week for allegedly trying to murder a student who was dealing marijuana for him, school and police officials launched investigations into Harrison’s recent past.

On Monday, as prosecutors filed new drug and gun charges against Harrison, city, school, and police officials met to discuss the case. Police described a fruitless investigation into the minister’s activities last summer, and the city later released a timeline of his spotty Boston public schools career, including reprimands for his encounters with students.

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However, although signs that something may have been amiss lay buried in the preacher’s recent past, evidence that would have unearthed what Mayor Martin J. Walsh called Harrison’s “double life” was hard to see, officials said.

“This guy is probably the last person we would expect,” said Boston police Commissioner William Evans, who said Harrison had no criminal record and no arrests of which he was aware.

“He was an advocate for antiviolence. Why would he be on our radar screen?”

The former dean of academy at English High School, Harrison was also a community activist who often interacted with Boston police and other law enforcement agencies.

The police and School Department investigations are ongoing, officials said. School officials plan to interview former co-workers, and police aim to talk to students who know Harrison. A meeting with parents at English is scheduled for Tuesday.

But emerging details paint a somewhat darker picture of the 55-year-old Harrison, whose arrest last week shocked the intertwined communities in which he was a fixture.

On March 3, the morning of the Magazine Street shooting, Harrison was involved in an altercation in which he shoved a female student, an infraction that officials said would have cost him his job even had he not been arrested and charged with the shooting the next day.

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The shoving incident led to an investigatory hearing that found grounds for immediate termination, officials said. But by the time that was to happen — last Thursday morning — Harrison was already in jail awaiting arraignment.

It was not Harrison’s first strike: He had already been reprimanded twice in 2012, including once for pushing a student at Green Academy and again for inappropriate comments toward students, according to the timeline.

Niani Mendes, a former student, said Harrison, who was then a former community field coordinator, was “always flirting and asking students for their number.”

Harrison was punished for the 2012 infractions, but they were not enough to cost him his job, said John McDonough, interim superintendent of Boston public schools, at a brief news conference following the meeting with Walsh and Evans on Monday.

Harrison’s work history gave no indication that he was involved in anything criminal, officials said, but he had come to the attention of police last year, when separate tips led the department to stake out his Pompeii Street apartment.

After complaints to the police CrimeStoppers hot line and the district’s drug unit about suspicious activity at the apartment, “our officers sat outside that location for weeks and weeks,” said Evans.

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But instead of the quick in-and-out visits that are often telltale signs of drug operations, visitors stayed for extended periods, Evans said.

“There was nothing consistent with drug dealing going on,” Evans said. “There was nothing to indicate this fellow needed to be watched any closer.”

But the apartment, police and prosecutors now say, held a trove of drugs and guns.

In addition to the charges on which he was arraigned last week — armed assault with intent to murder, aggravated assault and battery, and unlawful possession of a firearm — Harrison will be arraigned March 17 on the new charges, including two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of a firearm in a commission of a felony, trafficking in cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, said Boston police spokesman Lieutenant Michael McCarthy.

The drug and gun seizures came after police arrested three men last week who are believed to have removed evidence from Harrison’s apartment. Boston police charged Oscar Pena, 19; Wilson Peguero, 23; and Dante Lara, 24, with drug offenses. Lara and Pena also face firearms charges.

Officers who searched Lara and Pena found a 9mm semiautomatic firearm, a .45-caliber semiautomatic firearm, ammunition, and substances suspected to be marijuana and cocaine, according to a police report filed in the Roxbury division of Boston Municipal Court. All three have pleaded not guilty.

The teen who was shot told police he had been enlisted by the minister to sell marijuana and had been doing so for several months, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David Bradley said in court last week. Shot behind the ear during a walk he allegedly was led to believe was a trip to get marijuana and meet girls, the boy survived with a bullet lodged in his cheek.

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Officials say the attack was captured by nearby surveillance cameras.

Harrison joined the Boston public schools in 2010, and became dean of academy at English High School on Jan. 5 after holding various jobs at the now-closed Odyssey High School in South Boston, Boston Green Academy, and Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School, according to a city news release.

Harrison has been associated with different Boston churches over the years, including Charles Street A.M.E. Church and Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, though he no longer attends either church, according to their pastors.

For six months last year, Harrison attended Hampton Outreach Ministry, which is now called Refuge Deliverance Outreach Church, said George Hampton, the pastor.


Laura Crimaldi of the Globe staff contributed to this report.