The first word of the fatal robbery came just as officers were preparing for a shift change Tuesday afternoon. A dispatcher told officers in Mattapan and Roxbury to head to Tremont Street for reports of a shooting.
The dispatcher said she’d received multiple calls of three men “seen running out of AC Hardware.”
What police would find when they arrived was the aftermath of a fatal robbery that has stunned Mission Hill and the entire city. Inside the hardware store was Andres Cruz, 58, a beloved figure in the neighborhood who had been fatally shot in the store he had owned for decades.
Three suspects in the death were arraigned on murder charges Wednesday in a hearing witnessed by Cruz’s relatives and friends. They were ordered held without bail. Cruz’s son, also Andres Cruz, said the family wants justice.
“We’re all hurting, man,” he said. “I loved him.”
In the hearing, new details emerged of the brazen daytime killing and the swift apprehension of Cruz’s alleged killers.
When police arrived at the store in Mission Hill Tuesday afternoon, they found a trail of blood running down the sidewalk.
Before Cruz was killed, he slashed two of his attackers with a knife, leaving one with a wound that stretched from his forearm to his left elbow, authorities said. The wound created a blood trail that helped investigators apprehend three murder suspects just minutes later.
“I got one stopped,” a police officer radioed in. “He’s bleeding pretty good.”
Just before police arrived, a parking enforcement officer was writing a ticket for a Toyota Sienna minivan that was parked around the corner from AC Hardware. Suddenly, three men appeared, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney John Verner said in West Roxbury District Court.
“We need to get out of here,” the officer overheard one man say, according to the prosecutor.
Moments later, one of Cruz’s relatives ran up to the parking officer and told her he had found Cruz badly injured inside the store. A neighbor had called him to check on Cruz after noticing that the front door of his shop was closed, which was unusual for the middle of the afternoon. The neighbor had seen three men “cautiously” leaving the area, heading toward St. Alphonsus Street, Verner said.
Officers found a “large puddle of blood” on St. Alphonsus Street where the van had been parked, Verner said. Police were then given a description of the vehicle and its license plate, according to Verner and a recording of information broadcast to officers during their response.
Four minutes after the first 911 call, an officer saw the van turn onto Heath Street toward Columbus Avenue. They pursued the van down Cedar Street, where the driver pulled over. Two men ran off in different directions, police said. Christian Soto-Olivero, 21, of Mattapan, stayed on Cedar Street, bleeding heavily from the laceration.
Moments later, police caught the two men who ran — identified as Jerome Hobson, 38, of Dorchester, and Shawn Redden, 26, of Brockton, authorities said. Hobson had a cut on his thumb and a laceration near his back, police said.
Redden was carrying about $700 in cash when he was apprehended, Verner said. He had also allegedly discarded a “pile of money” and a receipt from the hardware store.
Police found bullet fragments inside the store, as well as a knife, Verner said.
Soto-Olivero was arraigned in his hospital bed at Boston Medical Center, where he lay with a towel covering his head and his left arm wrapped in gauze. In a separate arraignment, Hobson and Redden stayed out of public view.
The men pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. Their lawyers declined to comment.
On Wednesday, Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, Police Commissioner William B. Evans, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh visited the Mission Hill neighborhood, stopping by Mike’s Donuts and then walking down to Andres Cruz’s hardware store.
“I feel so bad for his family,” said Evans.
Walsh said Cruz ran an “old school shop” and had seen the neighborhood go through ups and downs. Walsh commended Cruz for his efforts and for being so active in the Main Streets program.
“This is a great neighborhood,” said Walsh. “It’s a thriving business community again because of him.”
Lit candles, bouquets of flowers, a Puerto Rico flag, and paintbrushes were placed in front of the store in memory of Cruz.
Cruz was the city’s 27th homicide, up by three from the same period last year, and the latest in a wave of violence that included a woman shot and seriously injured Monday night in Roxbury and one man killed and another man wounded about six hours earlier in Dorchester, officials said.
There have been 718 robberies and attempted robberies in Boston so far this year, compared with 763 for this time in 2016.
Hobson was prosecuted for selling crack cocaine in Maine in 1997, and was ultimately sentenced to 30 months behind bars, court records show.
Hobson was also one of 15 alleged Intervale Street gang members arrested during a federal raid in 1996. The gang was considered one of the city’s “first and fiercest.” Hobson faced federal charges of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. He had also been shot twice the year before.
He was later sent back to prison for violating the terms of his federal probation after being arrested in a domestic violence case in 2000, records show. He was arrested twice by Boston police in 2008 and once in 2013 on drug and gun charges. The outcome of those cases was not immediately available Wednesday.
Hobson was also convicted in 2014 for operating after suspension and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, according to Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office. He was given a 10-day suspended sentence.
Last year Soto-Olivero was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, Wark said.
In 2015, Redden was arrested and charged with possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute and operating after suspension. The case was continued without a finding.
A man who answered a phone connected to Redden’s aunt said, “I don’t believe he’d do anything that heinous.”