On Thursday a Boston Public School employee, reverend, and anti-violence activist was arraigned for the execution-style attempted murder of a 17-year-old student who attended the school at which he worked.
Assistant District Attorney David Bradley argued in Roxbury Municipal court that Shaun Harrison had enlisted the teen to sell marijuana for his drug operation, but after an disagreement on Tuesday, he instead lured the high schooler back near his apartment and he shot him in the back of the head before fleeing on foot. The teen, who survived the attack, with the bullet lodging in his cheek, later identified Harrison as the shooter, and admitted their business dealings to police.
“It’s amazing that a person who was shot in the head was able to speak with investigators, and did identify Harrison,” Jake Wark, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office spokesman explained to the Daily Beast. Video footage taken from a nearby construction site corroborates the victim’s account, the prosecution says.
Harrison was hired just two months ago at Boston English as the Dean of Academy, where he served as a coordinator dealing with at-risk students.
But by the time he was fired after his arrest on Thursday, rumors abounded about Harrison’s unlikely double life as both a counselor of non-violence, clergyman, and alleged drug trafficker and gang member.
A veteran teacher and administrator of the Boston Public Schools who asked to remain anonymous shared rumblings among students who’d interacted with Harrison previously—that he had sometimes behaved in an unprofessional manner in his former job at Green Academy, including offering to hold knives for students before entering through the metal detector, and returning them at the end of the day.
After the shooting, Boston police carried out a search warrant for Harrison’s residence nearby, where the shooting occurred. They found three men leaving the home: Dante Lara, Wilson Peguero, and Oscar Pena.
“Two of them were found to be carrying guns, one of them had marijuana, and one of them had a police scanner,” the DA’s office explained. “The belief at present is that they were there to remove evidence from the defendant’s residence.”
A senior Boston law enforcement agent familiar with the case tells The Daily Beast that both Lara and Peguero are prominent members of the Boston Chapter D5K of the notorious Latin Kings gang. Harrison also reportedly has a tattoo in common with the two, although the DA declined to explain what it entailed as it wasn’t shown at arraignment. The victim instructed police that Harrison had a mural depicting members of the gang on the wall at his home.
The suspect—whose lawyer did not respond to a request for comment, but maintains his innocence—was previously known to the DA’s office, but primarily because of his work as the co-founder of the Ten Point Commission. The commission consists of a group of Christian clergy who do outreach work with youths at risk of violence and drug abuse. Until 2012, he had worked with the Charles Street A.M.E. Church in Roxbury.
Boston English, where Harrison worked most recently, is a high poverty “level 4” school, one step above the level that would allow it to be taken over by the state.
“Examples of [his] services might include finding housing for homeless students, or social services, or disciplinary alternatives to suspension,” Denise Snyder, the Boston Public Schools Media Relations Director explained in an email.
Often, deans aren’t required to have a college degree. Harrison’s Facebook page indicated he studied Human Service at Springfield College.
The victim explained in his statement to the police that “Rev,” as he was known to students, mentored him on a regular basis. Prior to his hiring at Boston English, Harrison had been employed in similar roles at a series of public and charter schools throughout Boston, including Odyssey, Green Academy, and Orchard Gardens, beginning back in 2010.
“My reaction is that it’s not that surprising necessarily,” a Boston Public Schools teacher said. “A lot of these guys do really good jobs, but unfortunately, with the way that the requirements are for employment, sometimes they don’t get the best people, are some of them aren’t professional. I would say the unfortunate thing is, there are a lot of kids working hard there, and a lot of teachers working hard there, and this is what makes the news.”
The Boston school administration was not aware of any rumors revolving around Harrison, Snyder said.
“Unfortunately, it is not unusual for someone to start a position mid-year or for someone at this position level to move around a lot. And, if they do move around a lot, it’s hard to develop a formal history,” Snyder noted about his recent hiring.
Former students of Harrison expressed their surprise at his arrest on Twitter.
“That nigga was cool as shit. Got me outta trouble wit sims mad times,” one wrote.
“dawg Everytime Me n manny got in trouble He always covered for us lol #RealNigga” another added.
It’s understandable why the news took some students and administrators by surprise, considering his past efforts in instituting gun buyback programs.
Harrison’s son Jeremy is currently under indictment for shooting his girlfriend in the head in 2013. The unlawfully owned firearm went off accidentally while he was cleaning it, Harrison explained at the time.
In an appearance in front of the conservative group the John Birch Society in 2013, Harrison bemoaned a system that would prevent school prayer, but allow for gay groups on campus.
“It’s the biggest betrayal of trust, not just in the sense that he represents himself as a minister, but was also employed by the Boston Public Schools, working with young people,” the DA’s office told The Daily Beast. “They deserve much better.”
Susan Zalkind contributed to this report.