Police Have Not Ruled Out Gang Retaliation for Thursday’s Shooting Death

Haverhill Police Capt. Stephen Doherty and Deputy Chief Anthony L. Haugh confer at Thursday’s crime scene on Washington Street. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill Police have not ruled out gang retaliation as a motive behind Thursday’s shooting death of 20-year-old Nike Colon.

WHAV posed the question to Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro during a previously scheduled budget press conference Friday that was overshadowed by recent violence.

“We’re still not sure about that. We have to get people to, obviously that we’re talking to people and we’re trying to piece the whole process together so, at this point, it is still too early for us to make a definitive statement about that,” DeNaro said.

The chief said it continues to be difficult to get opposing gang members to come forward.

“If its gang-on-gang violence, then the chances are very slim that they will come forth and cooperate because their mantra is retaliation,” he said.

Asked whether weapons were found in the Dodge Ram where Colon was struck, DeNaro said he could not yet talk about the pickup truck left parked on the Newcomb Street side of City Hall.

The press conference was originally called by Mayor James J. Fiorentini to highlight the city’s plans to hire a lieutenant to lead a Gang Unit of four police officers and retain Lowell-based UTEC to help combat gang violence. Beginning this summer, UTEC will employ two street workers, a transitional employment coach and a mental health counselor to build relationships with gang-involved and at-risk youth, the mayor said.

Saying “the level of violence is completely and utterly unacceptable,” Fiorentini detailed the city is focusing on gang leadership and the most violent members. The mayor described some of the program elements.

“Job opportunities for them, counseling and that we do everything possible to keep them out of gangs or get them out of gangs,” Fiorentini said.

DeNaro added intake counselors will be sent into the jails to try to prevent repeat violence once gang members are released.

Reminding the mayor that city councilors twice voted down his budget last year over police staffing, WHAV asked if more patrol officers would be added if other cuts are made or additional money is found. “This is our number one priority right now, and we’re going to work hard to make sure that our citizens are safe. We’ll do whatever is necessary.”

Officials Participate in Memorial to Slain Youth

Following the press conference, Fiorentini visited a street memorial on Washington Street assembled by Colon’s friends and family. The mayor said he also talked with residents and business owners in the part of the city where he once lived.

On Sunday, about 30 people attended a peace vigil in the neighborhood. Keith Boucher of Urban Kindness acknowledged residents, mourners, clergy, Fiorentini and city councilors John A. Michitson Thomas J. Sullivan, Melinda E. Barrett, Tim Jordan and Colin F. LePage.