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Witness praised as Hub man faces gun, drug charges

By Milton J. Valencia

Globe Staff / July 18, 2008

The call to police was scary enough. Witnesses said four men were behind a day-care center in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods, one of them with a gun saying he was going to "put two in them."

"It looked like they were hyping themselves up for something," said Michael Rivera, program director at the Parker Hill/Fenway Head Start program in Mission Hill in Roxbury.
By then, someone had called police, describing the four men. The man with the gun was wearing a yellow shirt, black hat, jeans, and a holster slung over his shoulder. Rivera could see them from the security cameras in his office. And then he saw the police officers arrive, guns drawn.
"Show your hands," the officers yelled. Three complied. But Junior Joseph of Roxbury, the one with the yellow shirt, allegedly stepped to the side, asking why.
The next moment erupted in a flash, making this police call anything but routine. Joseph allegedly raised the gun. Police tackled him, and a fierce struggle ensued.
"I don't know what was going on in my mind," said Officer Jimmy Coyne, one of the responding officers and the first to grab Joseph. "My motive was disarming the firearm and making sure everyone was safe."
Yesterday Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis praised Coyne and his partner, Mila DePina, for making an arrest Davis said typifies the best of community policing. The officers were courageous in their efforts, he said, but their work was aided by a witness who called police and relayed the description of the men, staying on the phone to update dispatchers.
"This is the type of partnership we talk about in community policing," Davis said. He said the arrest prevented what could have been the city's 36th homicide this year.
"There's no doubt in my mind it saved a life, and that's precisely what we need," the commissioner said.
Police said they did fear that the incident, at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, could have led to another of the shootings that have plagued the city in recent weeks, including a gang shooting three weeks ago in the same neighborhood. Two people were injured at that time, one of them a 7-year-old boy hit by a stray bullet while he was outside playing kickball.
Coyne and DePina know the neighborhood, known as Police District B-2, where an officer can gain the type of experience it would take years to acquire anywhere else. They also know that in that district supporting officers arrive soon, and they moved quickly when they found the men behind the day-care center.
DePina, a five-year police veteran, approached the three men who stood still, preparing to check them for weapons. But as Coyne approached Joseph, the man moved, the officer said. Joseph reached behind and pulled his gun over his shoulder, police said.
"It was like a flash, and I yelled gun, to alert her," Coyne, a 15-year-veteran, said, referring to DePina. He grabbed Joseph with his free hand and pushed him to the ground. DePina ran over and grabbed him by the legs. A struggle ensued, lasting several minutes. Both officers were hit with elbows and injured.
Joseph's gun dropped into some mulch nearby, and he was subdued. The officers were treated and released at a local hospital.
A 19-year-old who attends Delaware State University, Joseph was held on $15,000 cash bail after his arraignment yesterday in West Roxbury District Court. Police said they found crack cocaine and marijuana on him. He faces 13 charges, including carrying a loaded gun without a license, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, and distributing drugs. He also has an outstanding warrant in Delaware.
The three other men were released on their own recognizance, on the condition they stay away from the neighborhood's main streets, including Parker and Tremont streets. The men, Larry Moore, 20; Brandt Basile, 20; and Christian Pleasant, 17, all of Boston, face trespassing charges.
No one knew what Joseph's intentions were. His lawyer argued that he might have been trying to hand the gun to officers.
Police believe that they and the caller prevented a shooting.
"It could have gone either way, and we all came out alive," Coyne said
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