Everyone was rooting for Wellington Ruiz, even his former attorney.
But Ruiz, 25, was gunned down on Aguadilla Street in the South End at 1:30 a.m., Wednesday, police said.
“It’s sad,” said James B. Krasnoo, an Andover attorney, who represented Ruiz in US District Court in Boston in 2012 and last had contact with him about six months ago when Ruiz called to talk. “He was very bright. He had an engaging smile. . . . If he could get his act together, he could be a very worthwhile citizen of the United States.’’
Homicide detectives are also investigating the death of Eric Durham, 27, who was shot and killed on Southern Avenue in Dorchester just before 8:30 p.m., Wednesday. It was the deadliest day in Boston since Aug. 12 when three men were slain in two separate incidents. Wednesday’s fatal shootings bring the city’s homicide count to 36 this year compared to 50 at the same time last year.
Police said the shootings of both men on Wednesday were not random, but as of Thursday evening, no arrests had been made.
“Both investigations remain active and ongoing” said Boston police spokesman Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy. Friends identified Durham on Thursday. Authorities have not named him.
Ruiz, a native of the Dominican Republic, had a checkered life. His father brought Ruiz to the United States when he was 4 years old then left him with his aunt who raised him alongside her three children. The aunt died of cancer when Ruiz was in high school, Krasnoo said.
Ruiz’s grandmother came from the Dominican Republic to care for his aunt’s children but refused to welcome Ruiz. Her rejection “was traumatic for him,” Krasnoo said.
Krasnoo said that in 2010, Ruiz was injured by a stray bullet which could not be removed by surgeons. It was left in his spine and he was ordered to limit his physical activity to prevent the bullet from breaking free and traveling through his body, Krasnoo said.
Krasnoo said police insisted Ruiz was shot as part of a gang dispute, though Ruiz denied being a part of a gang. Krasnoo said Ruiz did not finish his senior year of high school because of the time it took to recover.
“That threw everything off,’’ Krasnoo said.
A year later Ruiz was charged with assault to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after a man was shot in the arm on East Brookline Street, court records show. Then in 2012 Ruiz faced the same charges again after his uncle told police Ruiz and his friend attacked him. Charges in both cases were dismissed.
In papers filed in US District Court in Boston, a federal prosecutor said in 2013 that he expected Ruiz to be deported to the Dominican Republic as a result of Ruiz’s decision to plead guilty to drug charges. Krasnoo, who did not represent Ruiz on that case, said Ruiz was detained by immigration officials for about six months in 2013, but was released.
Ruiz served about 10 months of his one year and a day sentence in federal prison before being released, Krasnoo said.
Boston police arrested Ruiz on Feb. 4 and charged him with armed robbery, according to court records. Ruiz completed 15 hours of community service through a life skills program at an organization called Vibrant Boston and the case was dismissed.
Ruiz’s friends gathered at a memorial Thursday near the scene where another man was shot and killed last year.
“It’s kind of tough,” said Ruiz’s friend, Deon Ruiz, 19. “Everybody is shocked.”
On Dorchester’s Southern Avenue Thursday, candles sat near shattered glass in honor of Durham, who was known to many by his nickname, Weez.
A friend who asked not to be named said Durham had moved out of Boston about two years ago, started a food delivery business called Eric’s Deliveries, and worked in construction.
The friend, who owns a takeout spot for chicken wings in Hyde Park, said Durham called him Wednesday and told him he planned to stop by for some chicken, but never showed up. “Weez is a one-of-a-kind guy,” the friend said.
Neighbors near the crime scene were shaken by the violence. Members of Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighbors United canvassed Southern Avenue and nearby streets Thursday afternoon with fliers that included a telephone number for people needing help. “We just want to reach out and let people know that we care,” said member Paul Malkemes.