With homicides in Boston up 40% over last year, and non-fatal shootings 32% higher than 2019, the city’s top prosecutor is vowing to keep those arrested on gun-related charges behind bars without bail until their trial. Rachael Rollins made the announcement as a man charged with murder while out on bail for an armed robbery made his first court appearance on Monday.
The case of Uhmari Bufford has generated a lot of headlines and headaches for Rollins, given that her office allowed Bufford to be released on bail just months before he was arrested for the murder of 46-year old Augusta Parker, who was shot and killed in a Boston park last week.
Bufford, who has a history of violent offenses, was out on bail, awaiting trial on charges in connection with a 2019 armed robbery of a taxi driver when prosecutors say he was caught on surveillance camera at 950 Parker St. in Jamaica Plain approaching and then open firing on Carter, striking him several times.
“Mr. Bufford then stood over the victim and fired twice more,” Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Riley told the judge. Bufford was arrested in the basement of a Brockton home two days later, authorities said.
In court on Monday, Bufford hid behind a gray slate door, poking his out every now and then to look around the courtroom. His lawyer did not fight prosecutors’ pleas to hold Bufford until trial.
Bufford was also arrested earlier this year and charged with interfering with a police officer and disturbing the peace after a shooting in the city’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, but his bail for the armed robbery charge wasn’t revoked at the time. Now Rachael Rollins says her office is going to be cracking down on those accused of a firearm-related crime, and will be holding dangerousness hearings in order to try to keep defendants behind bars until their trial.
Rollins announcement that her department is stepping up its use of dangerousness hearings — also called 58A hearings, which allow for a defendant to be held prior to conviction if a judge determines them to be too dangerous to release back into the community — comes after what she called “a pretty violent last few days” in Boston. Since Wednesday, there have been two homicides and 15 gun arrests, she said.
“That’s a lot of guns,” said Rollins, who lives in Roxbury.
“Rather than the previous practices of other administrations — and even earlier in mine — where some individuals might have been held on a low bail, the commonwealth will be moving for dangerousness,” Rollins continued.
It’s unclear whether Rollins’ pledge includes dangerousness hearings for those arrested for non-violent offenses involving firearms. If someone is caught merely carrying a firearm without a license, will Rollins seek to detain them until their trial, or will that be reserved for those accused of committing a violent crime in which a gun was used?
That’s a real issue, because getting a license to carry in Suffolk County/Boston is nearly impossible for the average citizen. Thanks to the state’s discretionary licensing laws, applicants for a Class A license can be denied based on the police department’s determination of “suitability,” which means that even if you meet the statutory requirements to receive a license, you can be denied for any reason or no reason at all.
As long as prosecutors are cracking down on violent criminals, the police department should also ensure that the average resident of Boston has the ability and the means to protect themselves, not only in their home but on city streets as well. It’s time to get rid of their subjective standards and allow ordinary citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and to focus law enforcement efforts on those who are truly dangers to themselves and the community.