Just before noon Thursday, Hancock Street in Dorchester was bustling. People walked to and from the laundromat, took their kids to camp, or stood in the sunshine with their neighbors. A man rode his bicycle; a woman strode down the street on her way to pay a bill.
When the gunshots rang out, many thought it was firecrackers. But then the man leaped from his bicycle and collapsed in the street; the woman with the bill looked down to see her leg bleeding.
Someone screamed: “They shot him! They shot him!”
The man, whom officials have not identified late Thursday but said was in his early 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman — a bystander who was simply walking down the street, witnesses and a relative said — was taken to the hospital and was expected to survive. Police said she was in her 50s.
“These senseless acts of violence shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross of the Boston Police Department, who appealed to the public to step forward with information about the shooter. Police are canvassing neighborhoods and looking for witnesses and video footage, Gross said.
The killing did not appear to be random, Gross said, though it was not clear if it was gang-related.
One man who said he witnessed the gunfire relayed a chilling exchange between the shooter and the victim. The witness, who the Globe is not naming to protect his safety, said he was standing feet away when the shooter walked up.
The shooter told the witness to “get out of here,” the witness said, then turned to the man on the bike.
“I’ma go to prison because of you,” the shooter said, the witness recalled.
“I swear to God I didn’t do it,” replied the man on the bike, the witness said.
Then, the witness said, the shooter fired.
In the aftermath, friends and family of the victim descended on the scene, weeping and asking to see his body, which lay in the street, protected from view by black screens while investigators collected evidence.
A woman who identified herself as his aunt arrived, shaking and breathing quickly.
“Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy!” she said, exclaiming that the young man’s cousin had also been killed on the streets within the past two years. “I don’t know what to say, I don’t know why,” she said. She and other family members said they were too distraught to speak.
Friends of the man said he was a good person who loved playing basketball and tried to stay out of trouble. One man who described himself as a close friend said the man had been in jail in the past, but was determined to go straight, and wanted to focus on his music career.
The friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the victim had recently been trying to protect a mutual friend of theirs from gang members who were angry with him.
“He was a real good kid to me,” said the friend. “He always inspired me to be better.”
Charod Taylor, another friend of the victim, walked near the crime scene with tears in his eyes.
“He was a great friend; he was a person you didn’t hear a peep from,” said Taylor. “He was a hard worker.”
Residents of the neighborhood were shaken by the brazen shooting. Several said that if they had timed errands differently — gotten a cup of coffee earlier or walked faster up the street — they could have been shot just as easily as the woman who was wounded in the leg. A man who identified himself as her cousin said she did not even live in the area and was just passing through to pay a bill.
The violence in the neighborhood is worse than he has ever seen in the 32 years he has lived nearby, he said.
“It’s been going crazy,” he said. “We’ve never had this kind of problem.”
A woman who said she was just feet away when the shots erupted said she was disgusted. “It’s summer. People should be able to walk out of their house,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”
The Rev. Mark V. Scott, associate pastor of the Azusa Christian Community in Dorchester, said the violence is painful and frustrating. Last month, a 17-year-old student was killed and three others hurt in a daylight shooting outside Jeremiah Burke High School.
“We grieve, but the important thing is that we do not grieve as if we have no hope,” he said. “There are many reasons for us as a community to remain hopeful.”