The Hyde Park man accused of shooting a Boston police officer in the face at point-blank range had a “violent criminal past,” authorities said Saturday, and court records showed he had recently completed probation for opening fire at officers during a 2001 struggle.
Police said officers fatally shot Angelo West, 41, Friday after he fired a .357 Magnum at Officer John Moynihan, striking the six-year veteran under the eye with a bullet that lodged behind his right ear, in what was called a “completely unprovoked attack.”
Police Commissioner William B. Evans said surveillance video showed West firing upon Moynihan after the officer approached the driver’s side of a silver Nissan Murano that they had pulled over.
“You just clearly see the driver come out of that driver’s side and his hand’s going up as he comes out,” Evans said. “Point-blank he shoots the officer right in the face.”
Moynihan, a former Army Ranger who was honored for his bravery during the 2013 Watertown shootout with the Boston Marathon bombers, is in a medically induced coma and remains in critical condition at Boston Medical Center, Evans said. Doctors are worried about bleeding in and around his brain, he said.
West was pronounced dead Friday night at the intersection of Humboldt Avenue and Ruthven Street where the shooting occurred, police said.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley promised a “completely thorough investigation,” and said his office will release a comprehensive account of the shootings.
“In the days and weeks to come, as we gather the evidence surrounding this incident, the public can count on a full and transparent account of the facts,” Conley said. “For now, we’re giving the investigators the tools and the time they need to do the job right.”
The shooting came at a time of heightened scrutiny of police interactions with minority communities in the wake of the deaths last year of unarmed black men in confrontations with white officers in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y.
Some anger generated by those shootings surfaced Friday night as spectators hurled insults at investigating officers on Humboldlt Avenue.
But the Rev. Mark Scott, associate pastor at Azusa Christian Community and a member of the Black Ministerial Alliance and Boston TenPoint Coalition, urged caution in rushing to blame police. He described the encounter between Moynihan and West as “nearly an assassination-style shooting.”
“We condemn the behavior of the man that was involved in the shooting,” Scott said. “There are rules that would prohibit you from popping out of a car and opening up fire on a police officer.”
Later Saturday afternoon, the Rev. Miniard Culpepper joined hands with civil rights activists and elected officials at the shooting scene to pray for Moynihan, West’s family, and healing in the community.
“Lord, we pray for peace right now, in the name of Jesus,” Culpepper said outside a building pocked with bullet holes.
Friday night was not the first time West confronted officers with a gun. Around 3 a.m. on July 23, 2001, West came face to face with State Police Trooper Kevin Murray and Boston Police Officer William Griffiths during a drug investigation near the intersection of Stuart and Warrenton streets, according to court records and a Globe report on the encounter.
As Griffiths and Murray fought with West to try to arrest him, West, then 27, fired his weapon, police said.
“We hear a gun shot, and all I see is the gun right here, right next to my head and right next to the trooper’s head,” Griffiths said at the time, according to the Globe article. West allegedly said, “Shoot me, I don’t care,” according to Griffiths.
(Boston Globe) Angelo West’s friend, Jamar, talks about him to reporters the morning after West allegedly shot a Boston police officer.
West was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, resisting arrest, and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, court records show.
He was sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison followed by three years of probation, court records show. His probationary period ended Aug. 12.
Robert F. Shaw Jr., who was West’s lawyer on his appeal, said he had not heard from his client since just before his release from prison several years ago. “As I understood it, he had not had any issues since he was released,” Shaw said. “I’m just saddened by the fact that something like that happened.”
Mourners gathered at a home in Roxbury where West was remembered as a barber and new father who spent a lot of time with his infant son.
“He was a good dude,” said Shawn Washington, who described himself as a friend of 31 years. “I woke up crying.”
The confrontation that left West dead and Moynihan grievously wounded began around 6:40 p.m. Friday as officers of the Youth Violence Strike Force spread out in the Humboldt Avenue area to investigate reports of gunshots, Evans said.
Two police vehicles turned on their sirens and lights and pulled over the SUV that West was driving, Evans said. Two other men were in the vehicle with West, he said.
A total of six officers, including Moynihan, approached the SUV, Evans said. He described their approach as “low key,” and said none of the officers had their weapons drawn.
“The officer didn’t even have a chance to probably even say anything,” Evans said. “This kid was up in his face firing a gun.”
After Moynihan was shot, West started to run, turned around, and fired at officers, emptying his revolver, Evans said. Police returned fire, killing West. Witnesses reported hearing about 20 gunshots. Officials did not say how many officers fired their weapons.
“It’s a tough job and our officers did what they had to do,” said Evans, who offered his thoughts and prayers to West’s family. “None of our officers like to use their firearms. It’s probably the worst thing we have to do in our profession. But here clearly . . . unprovoked one our officers was shot point-blank in the face.”
Officers pulled the two other men in the SUV from the vehicle and put them on the ground at gunpoint, Conley said.
The men, Dennis Wilson, 26, and Jonathan Aguasvivas, 22, have not been charged in connection with the traffic stop and shootout, but were taken into custody, officials said.
Wilson was arrested for violating his probation, and Aguasvivas was arrested on a warrant for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, said Lieutenant Michael McCarthy, a police spokesman.
A woman who was riding in a vehicle on Humboldt Avenue was wounded in the arm in the crossfire, Evans said.
“She wasn’t even concerned about herself,” police Superintendent in Chief William Gross said after visiting the woman in the hospital. “She was worried about the officer.”
Police have designated the Humboldt Avenue area, known as H-Block for the proliferation of street names beginning with that letter, as a “hot spot” because of the high level of gang activity and firearm-related incidents there, McCarthy said.
The shooting took place just feet from the site where, in August 1988, 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore was fatally struck by stray bullets fired by feuding drug dealers.
Activists and elected officials said police showed them the surveillance video, which they said showed West firing his gun without provocation.
“As the police approached the driver’s side, the police officer opened the vehicle car door and was shot in the face by the driver of that vehicle,” said Michael A. Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP. “That’s very clear in the video.”