Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Cambridge officials listen to a speaker Wednesday at a community meeting about a Nov. 23 shooting. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Police have been working around the clock following up on leads to a fatal shooting Nov. 23 in Cambridge and expect an arrest shortly, law enforcement officials said Wednesday at a community meeting.

The meeting was about the incident that claimed the life of Danasia Greene, 27, reportedly a resident of Child Street in North Point, and injured a man identified as Tyrre Herring, 26, of West Roxbury. But there was little that law enforcement could say about the investigation and crime – and they got few questions about it from the roughly 150 people gathered at the Citywide Senior Center and others interacting online.

Most people wanted to talk about Central Square’s general condition and especially about its unhoused population.

“Walking through Central Square over the years, I’ve seen it change. There is a population that needs help, and I’m thankful for the city for doing that. But there’s also a population that is not doing well,” said Ray Doucette, an associate at the law firm Galluccio & Watson, which has offices in the square. “It’s pretty blatant.”

The topic had a magnetic pull, coming up more than two dozen times over an hour and a half of discussion despite an early advisement that the Thanksgiving violence had nothing to do with the unhoused population who came to the square for its shelter beds or needle-exchange program.

Cambridge police commission Christine Elow speaks Wednesday at the community meeting. With her is Cambridge city councillor Marc McGovern. (Photo: Marc Levy)

“A lot of these crimes do not involve our unhoused. This particular crime did not involve anybody from the unhoused community,” police commissioner Christine Elow told residents and gathered officials. 

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, who called in to speak remotely, said the incident was “obviously another example of a gun on the street. And it is also what we believe at this point to be the result of an ongoing dispute between people who knew each other.”

While Cambridge was suffering “a reminder of how frightening these things are,” no one else was expected to be at risk of violence connected with the Nov. 23 shooting, Ryan said. “I would say they have made pretty remarkable progress in just under two weeks, and it is my expectation that we will get to a resolution of this matter fairly shortly.”

“This was a tragic event. We never want this outcome ever. We’re going to do everything that we can to identify the perpetrator and bring them to justice. What I will say is that this is a very active and open investigation,” Elow said, warning that there could be little other information given out due to “the sensitivity of this very active investigation into this very serious crime.”

Police found the gunshot victims at around 12:30 a.m. Nov. 23 in the street in front of the Church Corner apartment at 10 Magazine St., Cambridgeport. Both were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where Greene was pronounced dead. A man identified as Herring was treated; then police logs show an arrest on warrants from four courthouses, including Cambridge District Court, where Herring appeared Thursday for a detention hearing and was ordered held without bail until Dec. 18.

Possibly drug-related

There was a strong suggestion that the shooting was drug-related. 

“A lot of the drug dealing that we’re seeing now is not [contained within] the City of Cambridge, but is regional, and we really have to look at this as regional issue,” Elow said.

An unhoused man spoke at the community meeting of coming across the killing as it happened. 

“I remember walking up there and hearing those shots,” the man said. “By the fourth or fifth one, I knew someone’s getting killed there.”

From the man’s perspective, Greene – known by many as Bella – was the target of the killing by four men seen rushing away from the scene. Herring’s presence was incidental, he said.

“I thought it was just a drug territory thing,” he said, citing conversations with people who said they knew Greene.

Concentration of crimes

The Central Square area has seen a concentration of crimes, but many of it has been directed toward the homeless by people who prey on them. In an analysis toward the end of 2022, police data showed around 36 percent of all aggravated assaults happened in Central Square and around 61 percent of street robberies – with the “predominant scenario” involving a few suspects taking phones and personal belongings from unhoused people, according a Cambridge BridgeStat report. 

Though the perception is that there are more homeless people in Cambridge and Central Square, city councillor Marc McGovern told the meeting that censuses show the population of unhoused people remaining stable at around 500 from year to year. “But the people change,” McGovern said. “We actually do a pretty good job of getting 60, 70 or 80 unhoused folks a year into housing – but they just get replaced with new people, so it looks like nothing’s happening.”

“Individually, we’re actually doing a lot,” said McGovern, who is also a social worker and has led city task force work around the unhoused.

Reassuring the “civilians”

Elow said the significant, daily police presence in Central Square – including 10,000 “park and walks” and around 184 reports to the square’s police substation this year – and the work of outreach teams help inform officials’ understanding of the situation. “We’re not seeing a big influx [of homeless]. You might see a person here, a person there,” she said. “And we did not see a huge influx from Mass and Cass when that was dismantled a few weeks ago.” Mass and Cass is a Boston camp of homeless people that is periodically uprooted by police there.

The homeless man who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting also had reassurance for residents with fears about Central Square. Although like Doucette, this man had seen changes – “a lot of new age or hippie stores were gone, health food stores were gone” – he said he had “a sense of peace and love” when he was there, and that in general members of the unhoused population interacted only with each other. Sometimes, he admitted, those interactions were not positive.

“No one in this room would ever be a target,” he said, telling the concerned residents that among the unhoused, “you’re referred to as civilians.”