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Shooting Suspect Was Defending Home From Possible Gang Members, Says Lawyer

The alleged shooter's lawyer says the defendant and his family had been threatened by tenants who shared their Broadway home.

Santano Dessin, the Somerville man accused of shooting a 28-year-old in the neck Sunday night, was defending his family's home from tenants with possible gang affiliations, according to Dessin's lawyer, who spoke Tuesday morning at Dessin's arraignment.

Dessin, 33, has been charged with armed assault with intent to murder, assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. The shooting took place at around 11:30 p.m. after Dessin got into a verbal argument with the victim, according to the Middlesex District Attorney's office.

The victim of the shooting was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and remained in critical condition, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

Cheryl C. McGillivray, a public defender serving as Dessin's attorney, said Dessin and his family, who live at 196 Broadway, where the shooting took place, had long been threatened by a group of their tenants.

"These individuals have caused problems repeatedly over the past months," she said.

McGillivray said the group had possible gang affiliations and had been involved in drug activity. She said they had threatened Dessin and Dessin's mother in the past.

"It was in this context that the indecent happened," she said.

Dessin's brother told Boston.com Monday the shooting was in self defense after the first-floor tenants attacked the defendant.

McGillivray said Dessin was a graduate of UMass Boston who was pursuing a master's degree in criminal justices and sociology, that he had briefly served in the military before receiving a medical discharge and that he had a license to carry a firearm. "There's no history of drugs or alcohol" with Dessin, she said.

In the wake of the shooting, "I know the family is very concerned about retaliation being taken against them," she said.

After court proceedings Tuesday, a man who identified himself as a relative of Dessin's said the family would not be making any statements about the matter. 

Prosecutors said in court Tuesday that Dessin had taken video on his cell phone of part of the incident and that the video "does not show an incident of self defense."

They said multiple witnesses named Dessin as the shooter and that he also had Mace and a knife on him at the time.

Tuesday's arraignment was before Judge Maurice R. Flynn at Somerville District Court. Dessin is being held pending a bail hearing, which is scheduled for Friday.

Jason November 14, 2012 at 11:55 AM
If Mr Dessins story is true, the course MUST do the rite thing and let him go free. A prisoner in your own home... What has tis state come to.?
Ivan November 14, 2012 at 02:10 PM
The Somerville Police are useless. There's a crack house on Robinson Street they're just paying lip service to the neighbors on and a house on Jaques Street that heroin was being dealt out of was raided by the Everett and State Police last summer. I completely understand why this man did what he did. Call it self defense and drop the charges.
Fred Oleary November 15, 2012 at 06:50 AM
I'd say let the facts speak for themselves, but clearly there have been plenty of issues with wanna-be gang bangers in the area for some time. Mostly punks, some punks, and stupid enough to cause real harm. It's a shame but unless they are hounded out by neighbors bothering the cops, or bothering the absentee landlords, how is it going to be different? But honestly, Jason, "A prisoner in your own home... What has tis state come to.?" Enough hyperbole. This state? You're talking about a street corner at a major urban intersection that has been "up and coming" for 30 years. It's not like the state is falling down - and I don't know if you realized but McGrath at Broadway is positively luxurious compared to many parts of this state...parts of Fitchburg, Springfield, parts of Worcester, parts of Dorchester....the list goes on. Dial it back a bit. Can't people just speak to the immediate issue without making everything a 'chicken little' situation or a coment on some larger "national decline" issue? you go 5 streets up the hill and you could be in Brookline or Newton - it's not like this is the set of Judgement Night. And if it is, it's because peopel stop trying to improve it.
Fred Oleary November 15, 2012 at 06:56 AM
I agree about the charges but how do you figure the cops are useless? They always came when I called them on Sewall Street - even if it was just for some drunks making noise. Police aren't a cure-all, they are an interdiction force. If you're not calling every time you see something then what can they possibly do? Talk to your alderman (they are available every week) and go to the BOA meeting. Put some pressure through your representative - or even better, reach out to the community officer. Chris was responsive to all our Street's complaints and followed up when we had issues with one house in particular (the shooting a few years back). Commenting on the Patch boards alone isn't going to build a case against a property. Just a suggestion. But I know its fun to throw out lines everyone likes to hear like "Eff the popo"
SomervilleGirl November 15, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Fred, I have called the police on many occasions just this past summer due to excessive drinking by people who live across the street and keep us up during the early morning hours. There is an application on their phone which helps them avoid being caught, by what I was told. It took numerous calls to other city officials as well as the neighborhood officer assigned to this area. It's not that easy to stop it, they have rights you know. I'm not sure what the answer is and why the police can't do more to stop these problems in our city, but I agree, if the man was protecting his family's home, he should walk.
Somervillian November 15, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Somerville girl is a SNITCH! YOU are Not from Somerville!!!!
Charlene Harrison November 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM
This situation is so common now a days, where you have gang members living in the same dwelling or in the area & they basically bully the residents & other neighbors if they don't get what they want or someone speaks to them a certain way, especially down in the East Somerville area you have all types of gangs & then you have punks that want to act like they run stuff. Over the past few yrs things have gotten really bad especially down in East Somerville. I'm 38yrs old & I grew up in Somerville with all my other family members & the city got so bad that at 21 when I finished college I moved to Medford. Don't get me wrong I know Medford has issues & crime just like Somerville, but I feel it's not as bad as Somerville & thats my own personal opinion. Unlike me, my mother was completely against moving out of Somerville & she grew up on Otis St in East Somerville, but now it's totally different. I know every city has an elm st, but currently Somerville has more than one. The hardest thing is if you own any properties in these areas & you lived there for yrs & worked real hard to have everything u wanted for u & your family it hurts when someone vandalizes your property & even if you see who did it by the time the cops come the person is gone & then there times that residents reach out to the police for help & then you get told there's not enough evidence to prosecute, which I can understand where their coming from, but this is the outcome when the residents get fed up! So Sad!
Charlene Harrison November 17, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Don't worry Jason I get where ur coming from, considering I still have family members & friends in the area that own property. Some residents do feel like their in jail inside their homes, especially now when it doesn't matter if It's during the day or at night, people don't feel 100% safe even to sit on their porch, never mind going for a walk around the neighborhood. I worry about members of my family that still live down in East Somerville area & certain streets off of Broadway. Now a days criminals, punks & gang members don't care if ur a kid ,teenager, adult or even senior citizen & it also doesn't matter what your race or religion is unlike back in the day things weren't as badO of course there were gangs & regular fights ect.... but for some reason you wouldn't hear about kids, women or even senior citizens getting robbed or attacked, unlike now a days. Somerville is not like it was when I was younger & it's sad to see how things turned out in some areas that use to be beautiful. I don't like to hear about anyone getting shot no matter what & regardless of him saying it was insefl defense thats going to be hard to prove. I just pray that the person he shot survives because if he dies then Dessins will be charged for murder & hopefully his family can make other arrangements in the near future so they can feel safe in their own home.
Fred Oleary November 17, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Interesting turn of events. Not that it makes things better for any of the neighbors but it seems like the DAs office think this was a bunch of bad seeds all the way around http://www.wickedlocal.com/somerville/news/x1783172626/Prosecutors-Somerville-shooter-intentionally-shot-victim-after-baiting-him
Fred Oleary November 17, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Never cheer before you know who's winning http://www.wickedlocal.com/somerville/news/x1783172626/Prosecutors-Somerville-shooter-intentionally-shot-victim-after-baiting-him
Fred Oleary November 17, 2012 at 05:08 AM
yes, how terrible that someone might not want their life to be ruined by a bunch of idiots. Snitch. Evidently you don't even understand English. Snitch is when you "rat" out a person known to you. Complaining that a bunch of drunks are making your street worse is called Standing Up for Yourself. But I guess people who have no courage without a group of like minded - which is to say FEEBLE minded - "friends" to back them up wouldn't understand such a concept. I bet you think the streets would be filled with trash even if everyone stopped littering. Here's a hint, you make your own hood. Try that on for size. Its actually nice to live in a nice place. A hell exists on earth, some people choose not to live in it. To each his own, cellar dweller. Now sing Black Sheep with me "I know not of a wish - just some soap, and some water, a rag and a dish." (<= your life prospects, if you keep talking that Snitch nonsense)
Jason November 18, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Fred, I think i agree with most of your angle, and the further story does depict a setup, but your suggestion that an, individual, shall not stand up for him/herself is asinine. What else would you call being intimidated in your own home....have you ever been privy to such an event? It's nasty stuff and is very unhealthy. Calling the police is always best policy in an urban enviornment, and I for one do it often enough. As this story unfolded we see that Mr. dessin was not within the law and made a poor decision based on being a victim. Whom now we know made a proactive move to remedy his own families situation. However the assumed "bad guy" may have considered a better attitude when entering the residence his godfather lived in. I for one will not fault him taking a don't tread on me stance. So, the injured, will we ever know the real history ever? Will the police be available to back up Mr Dessins claim of gang affiliation? @somervillian, beat it, Wannabe. **I did edit this from a day ago.**
Tony S April 08, 2013 at 11:57 PM
What was it you did for work hero?

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