A Boston City Hall employee and a man who killed a Boston police officer 45 years ago are among 29 men facing federal or state drug, guns, and counterfeiting charges following separate investigations targeting allegedly major drug dealers and repeat criminal offenders, authorities said Thursday.
Gary Webster, 35, of Boston, a project manager for the Boston Planning & Development Agency who until last year was City Councilor Michelle Wu’s constituent services director, is accused of selling cocaine and fentanyl to a cooperating witness, according to officials.
Terrell Walker, 63, of Brighton, who shot and killed Boston police Detective John D. Schroeder in 1973, is accused of illegally possessing and selling a handgun, also to a cooperating witness, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.
Webster, Walker, and the other men arrested were not all connected by a single criminal enterprise or conspiracy but were “high-impact players” targeted “for their long histories of violence and drug trafficking,” US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said Thursday at a news conference alongside state, federal, and local law enforcement officials.
“The point of this operation was to work with state and local authorities to figure out who were the worst actors, and could we get into them to buy guns or buy drugs, and so have a way to get them off the street by arresting them on those charges,” he said.
Twenty-five of the men were arrested in a sweep Thursday, while two defendants remain at large and two others were already in custody, Lelling said.
Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said at the news conference that he had notified members of the Schroeder family of Walker’s arrest.
“They’re delighted that this individual — who should have been in jail anyway, in prison — is once again incarcerated,” Gross said. “He killed a Boston police officer . . . several crimes committed against civilians as well. I don’t believe he should have been let out of prison.”
The arrests come as national and local officials struggle to address an epidemic of opioid abuse.
The state reported that 1,977 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017, a decrease from 2,155 the year before.
Fentanyl, a synthetic drug often mixed with heroin and other drugs, was a factor in a majority of the deaths last year.
Standing before tables laden with rifles, handguns, and bags of drugs, Gross said the items were what was “destroying our neighborhoods” and those selling drugs in the community were “dealing poison.”
The arrests came after two federal investigations, Operation Landshark, which targeted impact figures and repeat offenders in Boston and Brockton, and Operation Nor’Easter, in which law enforcement made about 130 controlled purchases of drugs in Boston, prosecutors said.
During the investigations, law enforcement officers bought or seized 15 guns. They also purchased or seized fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base, prosecutors said.
Webster was arrested Thursday on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine and fentanyl. He was released Thursday afternoon on $10,000 bond, with instructions not to use drugs or have contact with witnesses, according to a spokeswoman for Lelling.
Webster allegedly sold cocaine, fentanyl, or both to a cooperating witness five times in September and October 2016, according to an affidavit filed in US District Court. He was allegedly operating out of his father’s house in Dorchester, authorities said.
The Boston Planning & Development Agency said Webster has worked there as a project manager since August 2017. His salary is $66,259.
“The Boston Planning & Development Agency holds every employee to the highest of standards and these allegations are deeply troubling. We have placed the individual on unpaid administrative leave and will determine next steps,” agency director Brian Golden said in a statement.
A public meeting scheduled for Thursday evening for a proposed Allston development on which Webster was project manager was canceled Thursday, according to the agency.
A staffer in Wu’s office said Webster’s last day of employment there was Aug. 11, 2017. In a statement posted on Twitter, Wu said Webster had been “part of my team when I first took office” and she was “saddened” by his arrest.
“We are all shocked at the allegations. . . . Whenever one of our aspiring young people makes choices that lead to actions such as those alleged here, it is a discouraging and sad day for the city,” she said.
Walker was arrested Thursday on state charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and unlawful sale of a firearm for allegedly selling a .40-caliber Ruger pistol and 42 rounds of ammunition to a cooperating witness
in 2016, according to Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
He was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail.
Lelling said Walker had served about 18 years of a life sentence for the slaying of Schroeder, who was fatally shot on Nov. 30, 1973, when he surprised Walker and two other men who were robbing a Roxbury pawn shop.
The Suffolk district attorney’s office said Walker was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Schroeder. That conviction was upheld by the state Supreme Judicial Court but reversed following a federal appeal, and he later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years.
In 1995, Walker was also convicted of armed robbery in Middlesex County, receiving a 25-year sentence. He was arrested again in 2009 on drug charges related to a Rhode Island-based organized crime organization.
Schroeder served with the Boston Police Department for 22 years, and left his wife, four children, his parents, three sisters, and a brother. Another brother, Patrolman Walter Schroeder, was shot and killed in the line of duty on Sept. 24, 1970, during a bank robbery in Brighton.
Boston Police Headquarters is named One Schroeder Plaza in memory of the brothers.
Milton Valencia and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.