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Suspect’s death at traffic stop caps life of violence

Driver had previously been shot 13 times amid decades of criminal charges

Angelo West was killed by police after shooting an officer.Reuters/HANDOUT

Angelo West was not even the person police were looking for. But when gang unit officers pulled over the SUV he was driving Friday night down Humboldt Avenue, hoping to speak with one of the passengers about reports of gunfire on Brookledge Street, it was West who allegedly got out and shot officer John Moynihan point-blank in the face.

West's 41 years had been filled with violence. He had been shot 13 times in two separate incidents and had been convicted on multiple gun and drug charges, according to court documents. During a struggle with police in 2001, he fired his gun and then refused to let it go, shouting, "I don't care, shoot me."


"Angelo was somebody who had already been brutally shot and almost killed twice. . . . It says something about one's state of mind that one would say that when they're angry," said West's former attorney, Robert F. Shaw Jr.. "It's not an excuse, and I don't mean it that way. But when you have somebody who is so victimized by violence and lives in this world where he's so paranoid for his safety, and feels he has to have a gun like that, it says something about the experiences he has had."

The five police officers with Moynihan when he was wounded Friday night returned fire, killing West, whose criminal record stretched back at least 23 years. A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said West was not the person who prompted the stop.

Moynihan, a decorated officer who helped save the life of wounded Transit officer Richard "Dic" Donohue during the Watertown shootout after the Boston Marathon bombings, was improving Monday at Boston Medical Center. Vice President Joe Biden visited with him there for about a half-hour, said Boston Police Lieutenant Michael McCarthy.


President Obama, who was in Boston on Monday for the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, said Moynihan was awake and talking.

"Boston, know that Michelle and I have joined our prayers with yours these past few days for a hero," Obama said. "Last year, at the White House, the vice president and I had the chance to honor Officer Moynihan as one of America's 'Top Cops' for his bravery in the line of duty, for risking his life to save a fellow officer."

Neither of the two men in the car with West on Friday was charged in connection with the shooting, but both were arrested. On Monday, Jonathan Aguasvivas, 22, pleaded not guilty in Charlestown District Court to unrelated charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and malicious destruction of property, in connection with a March 24 incident in which he allegedly threatened his child's mother with a knife and broke her electronic devices.

He was ordered held on $30,000 cash bail, and he also faces a probation surrender hearing on a 2011 gun case for which he was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison followed by two years' probation. Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Joseph Janezic said Aguasvivas has a lengthy criminal record "replete with weapons violations."

Dennis A. Wilson Jr., 26, was also arrested after the shootout Friday and was held without bail Monday in Roxbury Municipal Court pending a hearing Thursday to determine whether his bail in three open cases will be revoked, according to Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.


Those open cases include charges for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and making threats to commit a crime. Wilson has a long history of criminal charges including gun and larceny charges, many of which were dismissed.

West's family could not be reached for comment Monday.

One neighbor who said she had known West since he was 3 or 4 years old said he was a "good kid" who joked with her and hung out with her children.

Milda Gracia, 63, said West was deeply shaken by the death of his younger brother, who was killed when West was in prison after being convicted of shooting at police during the 2001 fight.

A mural of West's brother was painted on the side of Walnut Market corner store, near an address listed as belonging to West, and market manager Adrian Barbosa said West came almost every day to visit.

"I hear people talk, and they say he didn't want to go back to jail," Barbosa said. "I knew him when he got out of jail. He didn't talk that much; he was quiet."

A few hours before West's final, brutal confrontation with police, he shared with Barbosa some chicken he'd bought, the store manager said.

But while West's friends and neighbors described a calm and kind man, his past was pocked by episodes of lawlessness.

He was convicted in 1992 of assault with a dangerous weapon and illegal possession of a firearm and convicted again of illegal possession of a firearm in 1995, court documents show. In 1997, he was convicted of drug charges, including distribution of a Class B controlled substance in a school zone.


In an affidavit filed in Suffolk Superior Court, West said that in 1994, he got into a fight with a man who returned with a gun and shot him nine times in the leg, stomach, back, and buttocks, leaving a bullet lodged in his hip. One bullet skimmed his spine, he said, and he had to use a catheter ever since. In 1995, he said, he was sitting on his porch when a man in a hoodie "ran up on me and shot me 4 times." His right femur shattered in five places, resulting in his right leg being shorter than his left.

In July 2001, West was walking in the Theater District when he passed police trying to arrest a man they had allegedly seen conducting a drug deal, a man West did not know. According to court documents, police believed they saw West reaching into his waistband as if for a gun. When they tried to arrest them, they fought and he fired his gun, then refused to drop it even after they threatened to shoot him. In his affidavit, West said an officer tackled him suddenly from behind, and he reached for his gun only to keep it from firing.


After his arrest that night, police asked if he hated police officers, according to court transcripts.

"I take them as they come," West said. He said he ran because he was scared.

When police asked if he would have kept shooting had his gun not jammed, he told them he was "only reacting."

Asked why he began firing in the first place, he repeated himself:

"I was only reacting."

Jonathan Aguasvivas, 22, was not charged in connection with the shootout on Friday.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance