School Dean Shoots Student - Boston Criminal Defense Blog


A Boston Municipal Court judge imposed an additional $150,000 bail on a former English High School dean for firearms and drug charges.  Shaun O. Harrison Sr., onetime dean of students at English High School in Boston, was arrested and accused of attempted murder in the shooting a 17-year-old student who was allegedly selling drugs for him now faces additional charges.

Harrison was initially held on $250,000 on March 4, 2015 on charges connected with the execution style shooting, was held on additional bail after he appeared in a Boston courtroom on March 17, 2015  on firearms and drug charges.

Harrison has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Following Harrison’s arrest, the police sought and were granted a search warrant from a Magistrate from the Roxbury Municipal Court requesting permission to search Harrison’s Pompeii Street home for evidence.  During the execution of a search warrant, drugs and weapons were allegedly found in the home and in a storage compartment in the basement.  The new evidence formed the basis for the new charges Harrison was arraigned on today, according to records filed in the Roxbury Municipal Court.  The new charges included cocaine trafficking, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and firearms offenses.

According to a Boston Globe article, Harrison made a name for himself in the community as the antigang pastor.  His nickname was “Rev”.  Harrison was fired from his job as dean of students at English High School after the shooting.

A day after the shooting, police also arrested three men who were seen exiting Harrison’s apartment. According to a Boston Globe article, Boston police charged Oscar Pena, 19; Wilson Peguero, 23; and Dante Lara, 24, with drug offenses. Lara and Pena also face firearms charges.


Assault with intent to murder (G.L. c. 265, § 15) requires assault, specific intent to kill, and malice. The lesser included offense of assault with intent to kill (G.L. c. 265, § 29) requires assault, specific intent to kill, and absence of malice. “[P]erhaps the simplest and most distinct way to describe the difference” is that the lesser offense has an additional element — namely, the presence of mitigation provided by reasonable provocation, sudden combat, or excessive force in self-defense. If there is no evidence of mitigation, the Commonwealth satisfies its burden on the issue of malice simply by proving specific intent to kill. Commonwealth v. Nardone, 406 Mass. 123, 130-132, 546 N.E.2d 359, 364-365 (1989).

In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution will have to prove that it was Harrison’s intent to murder this 17-year-old student, (who was allegedly selling drugs for him), by shooting him in the back of the head.  Proving intent however, is inherently difficult without direct evidence or an admission.

The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt what was going on in Harrison’s head.  He will accomplish this requirement usually by utilizing circumstantial evidence.  The prosecution will likely piece together different portions of evidence to prove this element of the crime.  Evidence discovered from the search warrant will be utilized, including evidence of other crimes committed by Harrison; statements from co-defendants, text messages, e-mails, as well as the recollection of witnesses who dealt with Harrison.

The prosecution will next have to establish that Harrison formed the specific intent to kill and not merely shot the student by accident to scare or disable him.  The prosecution must prove specific intent to kill was Harrison’s actual intent.  Specific intent is the intent to achieve a specific result. In the law’s eyes a person acts intentionally with respect to a result when his conscious objective is to cause that result.

The last element the prosecution will try to prove is that the killing was done with malice and without mitigating circumstances.  Mitigating circumstances refer to those circumstances that help to reduce the penalty of an accused upon conviction.  Mitigating circumstances are conditions or happenings which do not excuse or justify criminal conduct, but are considered out of mercy or fairness in deciding the degree of the offense the prosecutor charges.  Examples of mitigating circumstances are crimes that occur in the “heat of passion” (caused by adequate legal provocation), the defendant’s youth, mental capacity, childhood abuse, or acts that occurred in good faith to justify the criminal conduct (such as excessive force when used in self-defense).

Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio

Boston Criminal Attorney Steven J. Topazio

Steven Topazio has been a criminal defense attorney for over 29 years and represents the wrongfully accused throughout Boston and Massachusetts. He is rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, 10.0 Superb by AVVO, a Top 100 Trial Attorney and holds membership in the invite-only American Society of Legal Advocates.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact Attorney Steven J Topazio. He believes everyone is entitled to the Best Defense and is prepared to investigate every aspect of the allegations and circumstances of your case in order to build an aggressive defense.

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