At Killers’ Sentencing, Slain Woman’s Family Delivers Message: “Put the Guns Down”

BOSTON, Jan. 8, 2018—As 26-year-old Dawnn Jaffier’s killers were sentenced to life in prison, her father and brother delivered an urgent plea to other young men to put down their guns – and asked federal lawmakers and others to stop the flow of those same firearms into cities like Boston.

Ian Jaffier’s remarks came at a sentencing hearing for WESSON COLAS (D.O.B. 5/25/92) and KEITH WILLIAMS (D.O.B. 7/13/96), both convicted of first-degree murder, armed assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A Suffolk Superior Court jury convicted both men of causing Jaffier’s death and the injury of a second woman on Blue Hill Avenue on the morning of Aug. 23, 2014, District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.

The murder conviction carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison. Suffolk prosecutors recommended an additional sentence of five to seven years for both men on the non-fatal shooting of the surviving victim. Judge Christine Roach imposed those sentences, but ordered them to run concurrent with, rather than from and after, the life terms.

Recalling the deaths of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and musician John Lennon at the hands of men with guns, Ian Jaffier said his “superstar” daughter – a beloved coach, dance instructor, and mentor to kids and teens – “was also senselessly lost to gun violence.” He decried the fact that she was killed at the J’Ouvert parade at Boston’s annual Caribbean festival, which he likened to Disneyland, where “families come together to have fun and learn about their roots and culture.” He implored young men “walking around toting guns” to “put down the guns …. Instead of going around shooting people, try to be somebody. Make your family proud. Make your community proud.”

But when guns and drugs “ruin so many innocent lives,” he asked, “Why is it so difficult for Congress and the NRA to stop” them from coming into cities like Boston?

Dawnn Jaffier’s brother mourned her loss and asked that others take the case to heart as they consider their actions so that “maybe someone would watch this trial and put that gun down.”

Conley lauded their words and their strength even amid the depth of their grief.

“We never met Dawnn, so what we know of her comes from her family, her friends, and the kids across the city who loved her,” Conley said. “Through them we see a strong, compassionate, inspirational young woman. We see someone who changed lives and made Boston a better place. We see her grace and dignity in those who loved her most, and we ask that their message be heard – on the streets of Boston and in the halls of Congress alike.”

Assistant District Attorney Mark Lee, deputy chief of Conley’s Homicide Unit, proved during about eight days of testimony that Colas and Williams were among separate groups that encountered one another in the area of Blue Hill Avenue near McLellan Street along the J’ouvert parade route of Boston’s Caribbean Festival. Colas produced a firearm and began to raise it at the other group, at which point Williams drew his own firearm and fired repeatedly.

One of those shots struck Jaffier as she stood about a block away near the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue and Charlotte Street. Another struck the surviving victim, who was about three blocks south at American Legion Highway.

Though Williams fired the shots that struck Jaffier and the surviving victim, Colas was indicted on a theory of murder adopted by the Supreme Judicial Court’s 1997 decision in Commonwealth v. Felix Santiago, which held that “Where the defendant chooses to engage in a gun battle with another with the intent to kill or do grievous bodily harm and a third party is killed, the defendant may be held liable for the homicide even if it was the defendant’s opponent who fired the fatal shot.”

A third man, JORDAN REED (D.O.B. 9/5/92) of Randolph, was charged as an accessory after the fact to Jaffier’s murder for allegedly hiding the .357 caliber revolver used in the shootings shortly after the incident. He died unexpectedly while the case was pending; his death is not considered suspicious.

Elise McConnell was the DA’s assigned victim-witness advocate. Colas was represented by attorney Peter Marano and Williams by attorney John Galvin.

 

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All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.