, Salem, MA

April 28, 2007

Gang attacks teen in Peabody, cops say

By Alan Burke , Staff writer

PEABODY - Police say a caravan of six to seven vehicles with suspected gang members descended on a South Peabody neighborhood late Thursday night to single out and attack a 17-year-old resident.

Two weapons were found discarded near the scene of the assault, a machete and meat tenderizer, according to police.

"It is gang activity," Mayor Michael Bonfanti said yesterday.

The victim's name is being withheld. Police said his injury, a reported laceration above his eye, was not serious.

"It's more of an isolated incident," Bonfanti said. "It's not like the city of Peabody is being overrun by gangs. And we are taking steps to beef up the area by assigning a dedicated officer to be there in the early morning hours."

Peabody police spokesman Lt. Dennis Bonaiuto described a chaotic scene after a large fight developed on Veterans Memorial Drive, a neighborhood of public housing near the Lynn line. According to the log, police received several calls about a "large fight with multiple weapons" at 10:50 p.m.

"It appears some people showed up at the location looking for a resident," Bonaiuto said. "It's obvious they were looking to commit an assault and battery."

By the time police reached the scene, the victim had been taken to Salem Hospital by a friend. But the drama didn't end there. Arriving at the hospital to interview him, Peabody police then responded to a report that someone with a gun was stalking the parking lot.

"Officer (Richard) Rose found a suspect in the waiting room," Bonaiuto said. "He confronted him, frisked him, but found no weapon."

Bonaiuto said witnesses at the scene said that some of the (assailants) were from a gang in Lynn called the Amtrack gang. Cars at the scene were also traced to Lynn, he said.

A caller to police had reported hearing a gunshot. However, "No one who was interviewed (at the scene) mentioned hearing gunshots," Bonaiuto said.

Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne described Veterans Memorial Drive as an "area of concern ... it's mostly Section 8 housing." Administered by the city, the properties were once veterans housing.

Rumblings about gangs in Peabody have been ongoing for months, with some noticing an increase in "tagging," graffiti meant to mark gang territories. Meanwhile, Bonfanti has joined with surrounding communities to urge more funding for the Shannon Initiative, a state program aimed at targeting gang activity.

On the other hand, officials haven't pointed out any specific evidence of gangs operating in Peabody. At Thursday's City Council subcommittee on drugs, school athletic director Phil Sheridan was asked about gangs at the high school.

"I haven't seen them," Sheridan replied. "There are wannabes."

"We're still a relatively quiet suburb compared to Boston and even compared to Lynn," Bonfanti said. "But Lynn does abut Peabody. You can't put a fence up."

Meanwhile, gangs in places like Lynn and Lawrence are seeking to expand their influence, reaching out to places like Peabody, Bonfanti said.

"And we have our professionals taking a good hard look at stopping that kind of activity," said the mayor.