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A city enraged

Toddler, 3 others slain in Mattapan; officials vow arrests

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Globe Staff / September 29, 2010

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This story was reported by Peter Schworm, Travis Andersen, Maria Cramer, John Guilfoil, Meghan Irons, Brian McGrory, Andrew Ryan, and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff and written by Schworm.

Five people were gunned down in a Mattapan street early yesterday — including a woman and her 2-year-old son, cradled in her arms — in the worst rampage in Boston since 2005.

The shooting, which left four dead and one man critically wounded, touched off waves of anger from public officials and residents of a neighborhood already plagued by violence.

Shortly after 1 a.m., gunfire led police to a gruesome scene, described by two law enforcement officials as a possible drug-related encounter. The bodies of two male victims were found naked, sprawled on a side street to Blue Hill Avenue. The woman, identified by local clergy as 21-year-old Eyanna Flonory, had been shot in the head, and her child fatally wounded.

A third male lay naked in the area of 40 Woolson St., clinging to life after attempting to flee. He remained in critical condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center yesterday.

The slayings brought furious condemnation from political and religious leaders, and stunned a part of the city already reeling from weeks of bloodshed. Mothers held their children close as they walked to the bus stop. Neighbors gathered outside the cordoned-off street, their faces drawn. On a corner, a grieving woman wept uncontrollably, as a city youth worker gently raised her chin and gave her water.

“In this room and across the city, I think we share the same horror, the same outrage, and the same unwavering commitment to see justice done,’’ Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said at a press conference at Boston police headquarters. “There can be no justification for what happened at Woolson Street. There can be no excuse for aiding the person or persons who murdered a helpless child.’’

With barely contained rage, Mayor Thomas M. Menino decried the killings “as a senseless act caused by those who have no regard for life,’’ and vowed to make the assailants pay. “We know who you are,’’ Menino said. “Cowards kill. Cowards use guns to settle their scores. Cowards hide. Let me tell you, Mattapan is strong. You will not let them hide.’’

Menino struck a defiant tone as he addressed the killers directly. “To those who have no respect for life and would commit this brutal act: Our streets are not your playground,’’ he said. “Our kids cannot be your collateral damage. We’ll not allow you to poison our city.’’

No arrests were made yesterday, and police declined to provide details about the status of the investigation, other than to say the slayings appeared not to be random, the victims probably knew their assailants, and a “significant amount’’ of evidence was recovered at the scene.

Police did not identify the victims, but friends and relatives named some of them. They included 21-year-old Simba Martin, according to a friend; 32-year-old Marcus Hurd, whose identity was confirmed by several law enforcement officials; Flonory, according to clergy, and her son, Amani Smith, identified by relatives. The fifth victim could not be confirmed last night.

Law enforcement officials confirmed that Hurd was the victim who was still alive at Beth Israel. Martin, according to 19-year-old Kiya Benders, who said she was a close friend, was studying criminal justice at a community college and had recently begun dating Flonory.

Authorities vowed to bring “every conceivable resource’’ to the search for the shooters and said three times the usual number of homicide investigators were on the case — the worst since a 19-year-old Dorchester man shot four people in a Dorchester basement recording studio in December 2005.

“We are doing everything humanly possible to catch the perpetrators of this inhumane act, and will not rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice,’’ said Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis.

Authorities appealed to the public for any information about the slayings, and street workers handed out fliers in the neighborhood urging people to come forward if they have any knowledge of the crime. They said they were particularly interested in information on a silver or gray Ford Explorer that was spotted leaving the scene.

“In light of these horrible facts, silence is not a moral option,’’ Conley said.

Investigators declined to discuss potential motives publicly, but two law enforcement officials said they believed the slayings were drug-related. One of the victims told police before he fell unconscious that he had been trying to buy drugs just before the shootings. Also, that the victims were naked suggested a drug deal in which the participants were made to take off their clothes so they would be less likely to flee, the officials said.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Neighbor Ralph Myrthil said he came out of his house after hearing the shots and saw two people lying in the street naked, as if they had been pulled out of their beds before they were shot.

Samuel T. Moran, who lives near Woolson Street, said he heard about six gunshots, then looked out his window and saw a shadowy figure running down the street, followed by a silver or light gray vehicle. “It puts fear in people’s hearts,’’ he said. “Things happen but they shouldn’t happen like that.’’

In Mattapan, residents were deeply pained by the killing of an innocent child. Even in a neighborhood hardened by drug violence, the enormity and brazenness of the violence shook many to their core. “Nothing like this has happened before,’’ said Yvonne Chung, a 47-year-old mother of three who has lived on the street since 1977. “Right now all I can say is thank God my family is safe.’’

Many residents called for a stronger police presence in the neighborhood and raged against those responsible for so much anguish. Some said that they had thought about moving.

“I can’t take it no more,’’ Myrthil said. “This is no good for my kids.’’

In the precinct where the slayings occurred, there have been 14 homicides this year, up from six through last Sept. 26. In the past three months, there have also been 32 assaults within a half-mile of 40 Woolson St., according to Boston police data.

“It’s ugly,’’ said Monique Golay, 26, who lives on nearby Sutton Street. “Whoever did this, let Boston be the first to execute that man. Just for the kid alone.’’

Homicides in Boston have climbed by almost one-third so far this year, incensing police and religious leaders. But more than nearly any crime in recent memory, these slayings laid bare the ravages of city gun violence

“For someone to feel like they can shoot a 2-year-old child and the child’s mother is just reprehensible to me,’’ said the Rev. Jeffrey L. Brown, executive director of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, a group of clergy working to reduce violence.

Relatives of the slain boy appeared last night at a community meeting held at Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan, where Davis, Conley, Menino, and Governor Deval Patrick tried to assure upset residents that they would catch the shooters.

A woman who said she was the boy’s aunt, Avis Springette, told Menino that her family wants justice. “Everyone in the family is grieving,’’ she said.

She said the 2-year-old had recently learned to dribble a basketball and “loved to dance. Everybody loved Amani.’’ The boy’s grandmother tried to address the panel, but began to weep and was led away by family members.

About 50 people gathered down the street from the scene of the killings last night and held a candlelight vigil. Many spoke out about police, the plight of minorities in the city, and the escalating violence.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com; Maria Cramer at mcramer@globe.com.