By Seth Daniel
A 16-year-old Chelsea youth, who had just recently moved to Lynn, has been charged with the murder of Pablo Villeda, 19, in an horrific act of violence that left the victim dead and six others wounded from 10 gunshots allegedly fired in close quarters early on Sunday morning.
The shooting has rocked the community unlike any other recent act of violence, as many had felt the dismantling of the MS-13 gang and its reign of terror on the city might stem the tide of violent incidents. That, along with the loss of such a young person at the hands of an even younger person, has left the entire community grappling for answers.
In Chelsea District Court on Tuesday, Emanuel ‘Manny’ Marrero, 16, did not even come out into open court, where a packed courtroom of Villeda’s family and friends had assembled to hear the charges leveled against the Marrero. He was charged with murder, armed assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon stemming from the incident for allegedly opening fire at a crowded teen-age party, killing Villeda and injuring six other young men and women. At prosecutors’ request, he was held without bail.
Prosecutors detailed that they believe Marrero acted along with a single weapon.
Under Massachusetts law, juveniles age 14 or over accused of murder are automatically tried as adults.
Assistant District Attorney Julie Higgins of the DA’s Homicide Unit told the court on Tuesday that the charges stem from an incident 2:40 a.m. on March 6, when about 50 people were gathered at a party in a vacant three-room apartment at 120 Washington Ave.
Higgins told the court that Marrero fired multiple shots during that incident. Villeda sustained fatal gunshot wounds, dying of his injuries at Whidden Memorial Hospital. Several others were shot and survived, Higgins said.
Officials said the other gunshot wounds were to the lower extremities, such as feet and legs.
The ensuing round-the-clock investigation by Chelsea Police detectives and the Suffolk County State Police Detective Unit developed eyewitness statements, video surveillance footage, telephone records, and other evidence suggesting “one gun and one shooter – the defendant,” Higgins said.
DA Dan Conley praised the police investigators assigned to the case – and the civilian witnesses who shared information with them.
“One young man is dead,” Conley said. “Six others, some as young as 15, were nearly killed. Chelsea and State police detectives took this case extremely seriously, and it’s clear the community did as well. The progress we’ve made so far reflects valuable assistance on the street and in the neighborhood.”
Chief Brian Kyes praised the work of first responders and police in the multiple shooting incident.
“Although this incident ended in the senseless loss of life of a young man, the actions of the first responders in providing immediate medical aid to several victims during a chaotic scene clearly minimized further injuries,” he said. “While we train constantly to respond to mass casualty incidents like these we hope and pray that they do not occur in our community. Unfortunately, Sunday’s incident called this training into action and those who responded displayed and provided the highest level of care, compassion and professionalism to those injured.”
Police officials didn’t immediately indicate that the incident was gang related at this point, and could not comment on any part of that investigation right now.
However, several very recent Facebook postings by a Manny Marrero show him flashing gang signs for a locally known gang of young men.
Some sources told the Record that the teen party had been attended by numerous teens, most all from Chelsea High School. The party – like many broken up by police over the last year in vacant homes – included teens drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.
Things, however, were said to have turned bad when Marrero and his crew of friends arrived, and the shooting was said to have occurred only a few minutes after they came in.
Sources at the street level say the situation could be gang related, but part of a burgeoning group of younger kids who have formed smaller gangs. Some say those gangs were formed for protection from the larger MS-13 and 18th Street gangs that had been recruiting kids in and out of Chelsea High School and enacting violence against kids who weren’t of the same ethnicity. Those gangs, sources said, have grown more brazen with the absence of the larger gangs.
Those same sources said the shooting was as a result of a “beef” between the alleged shooter and the victim – though it wasn’t clear what that beef was.
A Facebook posting as Manny Marrero on a Facebook account last week show two messages that some believe to be indicative of what was coming.
“I can keep it cool, but you opp [expletive deleted] gon’ see me switch…A (kid) like me got a few issues, take my two pistols on a double date,” the posts from Feb. 29 read.
There was no indication the victim was involved in any such activities, but he had been arrested by Revere Police in March 2015 for possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct and violating that city’s knife ordinance.
Marrero was represented by attorney Jonathan Shapiro. He will return to court on April 8.