Video: Murder on a quiet road shakes a Brockton neighborhood
George Sass on Tuesday surveyed the bullet-riddled house where a 21-year-old man had been gunned down in an afternoon shooting a day earlier.
He looked down the street, where police had circled more than a dozen spots where shell casings were found.
He looked toward nearby North Main Street, where one of the stray bullets had struck a passing car.
“Once they start shooting, you don’t know where the bullets are going to go,” Sass said.
He and others along or near Johnson Court — a tiny dead-end, alleyway-like road off North Main Street — say that’s why they are worried.
Anthony Hamilton, 21, of Brockton, was gunned down on the steps of a triple-decker on Johnson Court shortly before 1 p.m. on Monday. He was killed by at least one man who strode up the street, firing along the way, police said.
Some bullets struck the house, piercing the walls. Others hit Hamilton, killing him. One hit a car heading north on busy North Main Street, a main thoroughfare that extends from downtown Brockton to the Avon line.
One neighbor heard the gunfire just as she put her child in the high chair. She grabbed him. “I hit the floor,” she said.
Many children who live along the street would be outside on a sunny, autumn day if school were not in session. “There are kids out here all the time,” Sass said.
On Monday, the children were escorted home by police, who tried to shield them from the body lying partly covered on the steps. One child saw the body and ran into her home, Sass said.
Joe Silva, who bought his home at the end of Johnson Court 16 years ago, said the neighborhood had been quiet for years but recently something seemed amiss. Different people were on the street, hanging around.
“I knew something was going to happen,” he said.
Sandra Smith, who moved to Johnson Court from Boston, said the shooting doesn’t shake her.
“I’m used to it,” she said. “It’s sad but I’m not worried.”
Worry about crime — and its rise — is not restricted to Brockton.
Forty-four percent of Americans last year said they believed there was more crime in their area than in 2007, according to a Gallup Poll.
People are also changing the way they live because they are afraid of crime, with 49 percent saying they avoid some neighborhoods or places as a result, another Gallup poll reported by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found.
Being close to home isn’t always the safest place, either. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that nearly 30 percent of violent crimes occurred in or near the victim’s home.
Police Chief William Conlon said the shooting on Monday wasn’t random — it appears the victim was targeted — but everyone is always worried about who might be hit by stray bullets.
“That is one of the great unknowns that you can’t control,” he said.
Law enforcement has boosted patrols where gang members hang out and targeted the gun-toting, drug-dealing suspects for prosecution, with many sent to federal prisons for long stretches, he said.
Programs to steer would-be and current gang members onto the right path are also in place, he said.
Meanwhile, the search for Hamilton’s killer continued Tuesday as state and Brockton police continued interviewing people and examined potential evidence.
Hamilton, his brother, mother and his mother’s boyfriend were arrested in March on drug-dealing charges after an investigation by Brockton narcotics detectives.
Police at the time had raided the family’s Torrey Street home and seized cash, a rifle and cocaine. They also seized heroin.
According to police, investigators also found heroin in plastic bags secreted in the buttocks of Hamilton and his brother — a method used by some dealers to hide and transport drugs.
The brothers were identified in a police report filed in court as known members of the “FlamesVille Legend Boys,” a gang known to hang out in what is known as the Lithuanian Village section of the city, which is northeast of downtown.
As the probe into Monday’s homicide moved forward, police boosted patrols in the area and neighbors along and near Johnson Court weighed their futures along the street just south of Oak Street.
Sass said his wife was already looking online for an apartment.
“When you can’t feel safe in your own home, it’s time to vacate,” he said.
Enterprise writer Maureen Boyle can be reached at email@example.com.