GET­AWAY DRIVER

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BALTAZAR DAROSA

In 2012, the Bos­ton Po­lice Depart­ment was forced to re­hire Baltazar “Tate” DaRosa two years af­ter strip­ping him of his po­lice pow­ers for what the depart­ment said was his role in a mur­der. One year af­ter he joined the depart­ment, DaRosa was asked to help in­ves­ti­gate the 2003 killing of his cousin, who was am­bushed by a masked gun­man as he sat in a car with his girl­friend. DaRosa, then 25, and his cousin had rel­a­tives in Cape Verde, a group of is­lands off West Africa. Frus­trated at their in­abil­ity to gen­er­ate leads in the tightknit Cape Verdean com­mu­nity, de­tec­tives asked DaRosa to help.

“[The de­tec­tive] sent me around ask­ing fam­ily mem­bers and Cape Verdeans, but be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer, no one re­ally told me” any­thing about the case, DaRosa later told in­ves­ti­ga­tors, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal af­fairs records and ar­bi­tra­tion doc­u­ments.

On a cold night in Jan­uary 2005, DaRosa was off duty at the Copa Grande Oa­sis, a night­club out­side Bos­ton, records show.

DaRosa was to have been work­ing but had called in sick. He and Car­los DePina — the brother of DaRosa’s mur­dered cousin — were at the club to­gether. Also at the club that night was a man named Jose Lopes, a known gang mem­ber who even­tu­ally would be iden­ti­fied as a sus­pect in the killing of DaRosa’s cousin.

The of­fi­cer, his cousin DePina and two friends drank and danced un­til the club lights came on about 1:45 a.m., sig­nal­ing clos­ing time. DaRosa headed out to his car and popped in a CD as he waited for DePina to re­turn.

But when DePina ar­rived at the car, he turned and walked back to­ward a group of peo­ple in the park­ing lot, ac­cord­ing to DaRosa’s ac­count.

About five min­utes later, his cousin ran back to the car “out of breath,” say­ing he had heard gun­shots, DaRosa said. DaRosa, with DePina as a pas­sen­ger, drove away, pass­ing a po­lice cruiser with flash­ing lights speed­ing to­ward the club.

Back in the park­ing lot, Lopes was dy­ing from nu­mer­ous gun­shot wounds to the chest and back. Sev­eral wit­nesses told po­lice they saw peo­ple run to DaRosa’s car, records show. Another wit­ness told po­lice of see­ing DaRosa driv­ing from the scene with the shoot­ing sus­pect in the car.

The depart­ment placed DaRosa on paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave and opened an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But DaRosa re­fused to co­op­er­ate, in­vok­ing his con­sti­tu­tional right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion, records show.

In July 2005, five months af­ter the killing, DaRosa was ar­rested, charged with be­ing an ac­ces­sory to mur­der and placed on un­paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave by the depart­ment. His cousin, who is still at large, was charged with mur­der.

In Septem­ber 2006, a jury ac­quit­ted DaRosa.

Af­ter his trial, DaRosa agreed to co­op­er­ate with in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors, telling them he thought his cousin was mis­tak­ing some other sound when he said he heard shots. He also ex­pressed re­gret for not stop­ping to help po­lice. “I as­sumed that if some­thing did hap­pen that the cruis­ers were there for it,” he said.

De­tec­tives later learned that DaRosa and his cousin DePina had been ar­rested at the club dur­ing a Cape Verdean-themed night three months be­fore the shoot­ing. Po­lice said that DaRosa’s cousin had been drunk and caus­ing a dis­tur­bance and that DaRosa had blood­shot eyes and reeked of al­co­hol. At the sta­tion, po­lice even­tu­ally let the men go.

The in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of DaRosa’s pos­si­ble role the night of the shoot­ing was com­pleted in 2007, and in De­cem­ber 2010, the depart­ment fired DaRosa, say­ing both events at the night­club had vi­o­lated depart­ment poli­cies — abuse of al­co­hol, ne­glect of duty, and a lack of truth­ful­ness, records show.

DaRosa ap­pealed the fir­ing. His union at­tor­ney ar­gued that there was no proof DaRosa used his in­flu­ence to in­ter­fere with his cousin’s ar­rest months be­fore the shoot­ing or that DaRosa knew Lopes was at the club the night of the shoot­ing or that he had sus­pected his cousin was the shooter.

In July 2012, af­ter a three-day, closed-door hear­ing at City Hall, ar­bi­tra­tor Richard G. Boulanger, a Bos­tonarea lawyer, sided with the union. He con­cluded that DaRosa “was not poised as a get-away driver or that he had knowl­edge that Car­los was in­volved in Jose’s shoot­ing.”

Nearly two years af­ter his fir­ing, and seven years af­ter the shoot­ing, DaRosa was re­in­stated and awarded $50,111 in lost pay and over­time, records show.

DaRosa and a union at­tor­ney did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

“I feel very happy for Baltazar,” Bryan Decker, a lawyer who han­dled the case for the po­lice union on DaRosa’s be­half, told a lo­cal re­porter at the time. “He’s an up­stand­ing mem­ber of the com­mu­nity, and I think that he is just ex­cited to get back to work help­ing the peo­ple of Bos­ton.”

To­day, DePina is a fugi­tive, be­lieved to have fled the coun­try. His cousin DaRosa is a bike pa­trol of­fi­cer.

For­mer Bos­ton po­lice com­mis­sioner Kath­leen O’Toole, who sus­pended DaRosa, said: “As a ca­reer po­lice of­fi­cer and mem­ber of the bar, I cer­tainly re­spect our crim­i­nal and civil jus­tice sys­tems, but I’ve of­ten been very frus­trated when see­ing thought­ful, sen­si­ble dis­ci­plinary de­ci­sions over­turned.” O’Toole left Bos­ton in 2006 and is now Seat­tle po­lice chief.

BOS­TON GLOBE/GETTY IMAGES

Bos­ton po­lice of­fi­cer Baltazar DaRosa en­ters court in 2005 for ar­raign­ment on a charge of ac­ces­sory to mur­der af­ter the fact.

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