An 18-year-old Hyde Park man was shot in the head and suffered massive injuries yesterday as he rode on a packed MBTA bus, in a chaotic scene that stunned afternoon commuters. He was on life support at Boston Medical Center early today, and police officials said he was not likely to survive.
The shooting sent passengers and pedestrians frantically diving for cover and left witnesses confused about whether the gunman fired from the street or was among the small group of young men who jumped into the bus to confront the victim after arguing with him from the sidewalk.
The unidentified victim, who police said was from Hyde Park and was 18, was taken to Boston Medical Center.
The shooting -- and a second, possibly connected fatal shooting a few hours later and nine blocks away -- underscored the recent bloody rise in gunplay on Boston's streets that has unnerved residents in neighborhoods throughout the city.
Boston police searched last night for the gunman from the bus shooting, who several witnesses saw fleeing the scene along with up to five other young men. Witnesses also reported seeing the group run through the intersection of Washington Street and Columbia Road just before the 3:30 p.m. shooting.
The brazen attack, the latest in a string of unsolved shootings in Dorchester, brought the busy Grove Hall area to a halt. The single shot echoed through a nearby church, fast-food restaurant, a government office, and apartment buildings.
Some thought a car had backfired, but others recognized the sound of gunfire and dove for cover as the young men, including the shooter, ran away.
"You wouldn't think of this happening on an MBTA bus in broad daylight with all these people around," said Nathan Jones, a painter working inside an apartment building nearby. "It seems like nothing will be surprising anymore. The violence will keep happening, but nothing will be surprising."
Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, speaking to reporters at the scene, appealed to the public for help in finding the shooter.
"The solution [to violent crime] lies with police working in close cooperation with the community," Davis said.
Police would not say whether the shooter knew the victim, and other passengers on the bus were not available for comment.
The second shooting of the night occurred less than a mile away on McLellan Street in Dorchester. Police found a young man, described as in his early 20s, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds around 8 p.m, police said. He was taken to Boston Medical Center and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
"They are looking into the possibility of a connection" to the bus shooting, said police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. "Homicide detectives are looking into that."
It was the third homicide in Dorchester this month. Quintessa Blackwell, 18, was slain March 9, and Chiara Levin, 22, was killed last Saturday. Their killers also remain at large.
In all, there have been 15 homicides in Boston this year, compared with 10 at this time last year.
"People are shocked, outraged, and there is some sense of fear and nervousness," said the Rev. William Dickerson of Greater Love Tabernacle, which is near the shooting scene. "We've reached a point where people are so cold-hearted they will shoot people in broad daylight.
"Their behavior is becoming more overt and audacious; they are so defiant of authority," he said of the young men involved in violent crime.
The shooting occurred just hours after the New York-based Guardian Angels began patrols in Dorchester.
Guardian Angels leader Curtis Sliwa said that his patrol was about a mile away at the time of the shooting.
Joe Pesaturo, an MBTA spokesman, said the shooting occurred on the Route 23 bus, which was outbound, headed to Ashmont from Ruggles.
Sabina Jean, who lives two blocks from the shooting site, said she heard one shot from several blocks away and saw people scatter. Jean said she rarely sees police on foot patrols in the neighborhood, but said she does see feuding youths.
"I don't think they're scared of each other anymore," she said. "They just do what they want to do. I'm thinking about moving out of here."
One woman working at a government office across the street from the bus stop was startled and confused by the gunshot.
"I just heard a big noise like a backfire," said the woman, who declined to identify herself. "It sounded like a gunshot at first, but then I remembered there was construction going on. It's just so sad."
The bus shooting marked the latest in a troubling string of violent episodes on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority buses and trains, which have 1.1 million boardings each workday.
On Feb. 26, three Boston teenagers were arrested and charged with stabbing another teenager at the Back Bay station a week earlier.
Two weeks ago, two men were convicted of second-degree murder in the 2005 shooting death of a 17-year-old teenager aboard an MBTA bus in Roxbury.
And earlier this week, two men were convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting of a pregnant woman on a crowded Orange Line car in 2003. The woman was struck in the abdomen, and the baby died after it was delivered.
Dickerson said he has scheduled a community meeting on youth violence at his church on Monday.
He said he believes that yesterday's shooting may be the last straw for a community fed up with street violence.
"It's been violent in that area before, but it's unfortunate we've gotten to the point where the minority, the people shooting guns, has made it so difficult for the majority," Dickerson said. "It has to stop."
Globe correspondent Michael Naughton and Mac Daniel of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.