A Dorchester youth will spend at least 2½ years behind bars and possibly as many as five following his conviction for repeatedly firing a handgun near a park crowded with young children, Suffolk county District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said.
A Boston Municipal Court jury on Friday convicted MICHAEL BROWNE (D.O.B. 2/9/93) of unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, unlawfully carrying a loaded firearm, unlawfully discharging a firearm within 500’ of a building, and disorderly conduct.
At Browne’s sentencing yesterday, Assistant District Attorney Nicole Rimar of Conley’s Gun Prosecution Task Force recommended that Browne serve two consecutive 2½-year terms in a house of correction, followed by two consecutive 2½-year probationary terms for a total of five years behind bars and five years of probation. During that probationary term, Rimar recommended, Browne would wear a GPS monitoring device, abide by a 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew, attend school or go to work full time, and stay away from the Roberts Playground.
Judge Robert McKenna sentenced Browne to 2½ years in jail on the gun possession charge. McKenna also sentenced him to an additional 2½ years suspended for five years, during which time he must wear a GPS device, attend school or go to work full-time, and stay away from any gang-affiliated associates.
“It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous, reckless act than wildly firing a gun in a city park packed with children,” Conley said. “The person who would do such a thing is a threat to his community. Every parent and child present that day was a victim in this case, and every one of them deserves the peace of mind of knowing that Michael Browne is no longer among them.”
During a two-day trial last week, Rimar proved that Browne emptied the nine-round magazine of a 9mm semiautomatic Smith & Wesson SW9V handgun, firing repeatedly at an unknown target near the corner of Wentworth Street and Wentworth Terrace, at about 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 14, 2010.
The shooting – which littered the path with spent shell casings – took place as about 50 children, parents, and coaches were just yards away for Pop Warner football practice. The gunshots sparked chaos on the field as people ran for cover, and in fact two nearby cars were struck by errant rounds.
Boston Police assigned to the area immediately saw Browne running from the shooting site to the Dorchester High School parking lot. When he saw an officer exiting his cruiser, he ran onto the field carrying in his hand an object believed to be the gun. Officers briefly lost sight of Browne as Browne ran behind the bleachers, but continued to chase him when he reappeared on the field. Browne again disappeared from view in a stand of trees and was spotted scaling a chain-link fence into a back yard on Armandine Street.
One officer scaled the fence after him while two others came at him through the rear of a Washington Street residence. Browne was sweating and out of breath when apprehended.
A short time later, Boston Police were approached by civilian witnesses who saw Browne discard something near the bleachers. As officers made their way to that location, additional civilian witnesses said they’d just seen someone matching Browne’s description burying something in the leaves. The item was later recovered and found to be 9mm semiautomatic handgun.
The City of Boston’s ShotSpotter system detected nine gunshots from the shooting location. Seven shell casings were recovered. Boston Police ballisticians testified at trial that each of those shell casings was a ballistic match with the firearm recovered beneath the leaves near where police lost sight of Browne.
Browne vomited in the transport wagon to the station. After booking him, Boston Police heard Browne make a statement on the phone that he “got caught up in a situation” and “got caught with a gun.” In a later statement to detectives, he claimed to have been a bystander who ran from the shots because he was scared.
“This was a compelling case, but not an easy one,” Conley said. “No witness saw him fire the gun. Fingerprint and gunshot residue testing was inconclusive. It took skill to weave the testimony of so many different witness observations into a coherent narrative, and even more so to prove its truth to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Browne was convicted in the Suffolk County Firearms Priority Disposition Session, more commonly known as Gun Court, a dedicated set of sessions for firearms possession cases and collateral offenses established on Conley’s initiative in 2006.
Since their inception, the overall Gun Court conviction rate has remained at 80% or higher and appellate prosecutors assigned to the Gun Prosecution Task Force have won more than 80% of their challenges to pre-trial suppression orders, bringing guns back into evidence and setting the stage for dispositions such as Browne’s.