Attempted murder charges against 15-year-old dropped in North Adams shooting

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NORTH ADAMS — A July shooting on River Street that put a man in critical condition remains unsolved, after the youth originally charged was found to have been unjustly accused, police say.

Chief Jason R. Wood said a witness had implicated a 15-year-old in the shooting, but later recanted statements to police that the juvenile had approached the victim of the shooting and had also confessed.

"That same witness recanted on the statement and was later found to be lying," Chief Wood said. He said Friday it hasn't been decided if the witness who gave the false statement to police would be charged.

Alexander Sohn, the juvenile's attorney, said he made a verbal case for his client's innocence with the Berkshire District Attorney's office Aug. 4, and provided a written request to dismiss the case Aug. 7, detailing the evidence gathered.

Sohn said the DA's office filed a notification Sept. 1 that it will not prosecute. The office declined to comment.

Wood said his department's investigation into the shooting is ongoing. He said no one else has been charged. Anyone with information about this shooting should contact North Adams Police Detective Sgt. Brad Vivori at 413-664-4944.

"There is no risk to public safety in regard to this," Wood said.

On July 14, around 7:20 p.m., a 62-year-old city man, David Wood (no relation to the police chief), was shot in the neck while he was walking along River Street. The shooting occurred near 71 River St.

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According to previous Eagle reports, a neighbor who heard one shot called 911. The victim was initially taken to Berkshire Medical Center's North Adams facility, then airlifted to Albany Medical Center in New York for surgery. The man had been hit by a bullet that traveled into his chest cavity and put him in critical condition. Officer Stephanie Mirante is credited by the chief and Mayor Thomas Bernard for providing "lifesaving" treatment to the victim at the crime scene.

Chief Wood said the man has recovered. "He's walking around." The chief also said the shooting appears to have been random and not gang related. It was not a drive-by shooting, he said.

He declined to comment on the type of weapon used or whether a gun has been recovered. The chief also declined to say whether drugs were a factor in the incident.

A quick arrest

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Within 24 hours of the shooting, the juvenile — whose name is being withheld because of his age — was arrested on charges of assault with the intent to murder, and assault and battery on a person over 60 years old, with serious bodily injury. The teen was 15 years old at the time.

North Adams Police detectives secured an arrest warrant through North Adams Juvenile Court July 15. The juvenile was taken into custody that afternoon without incident and was taken to the North Adams Police Department for processing and booking. He was interviewed in the presence of his mother, Kerrie Weldon, and transported to a juvenile detention center in Worcester.

"He was shaking," Weldon said of her son. She approved use of her name in this story.

The youth was arraigned July 16 through a virtual Zoom hearing in juvenile court, and the Commonwealth filed a motion that day for the youth to be held without right to bail under a dangerousness statute. The hearing on that motion was continued until July 20. During that time, the teen was held at a juvenile detention facility in Westfield until July 21, according to Sohn.

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On July 20, Sohn and prosecutors came to terms for the youth's release. The juvenile returned to his home in Adams, where he remained under house arrest until the case was dismissed Sept. 1. The youth celebrated his 16th birthday wearing an ankle monitor, his mother said.

Sohn said that Vivori, the North Adams police sergeant, submitted a 15-page probable cause report to North Adams Juvenile Court July 15. Sohn said the report indicated police had spoken with 15 witnesses and obtained portions of surveillance video from the Corner Market at 110 River St.

After his client's arrest, Sohn reviewed evidence and used text messages, a notarized statement from an alibi witness and video surveillance footage to prove the youth was not in the area at the time of the incident.

The boy's family says his grandmother and uncle live in the neighborhood and that he was in the area prior to the incident.

Evidence indicated the juvenile was picked up on River Street at 7:11 p.m. in a car with two other people. They then drove to a third person's house. The youth was dropped back off on River Street at 7:38 p.m., Sohn said. The shooting had already happened, at 7:20 p.m.

The attorney said he filed a motion for a copy of the extended surveillance video from the Corner Market on July 20, but did not receive the footage until Aug. 3.

Weldon said she was taking her son on a court-permitted trip to the dentist's office when they got the call with the news that charges had been dropped. They met with a probation officer who cut the ankle monitor off of the teen.

"Without this type of strong corroborating evidence I am confident my client would still be battling for his freedom," Sohn said in an email. "This was a very traumatic and eye-opening experience for both my 15-year-old client and his family. Though it took some time, I am satisfied that this DA's office did the right thing in the end."


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