Two gunmen opened fire on a group of diners in a crowded restaurant Monday, killing four people and critically wounding another while sending scores of terrified lunchtime patrons diving for cover.
Moments after the shooting, two suspects were captured as they fled the scene. Two off-duty officers who had been eating lunch in the restaurant and two other officers who were working a nearby private detail made the arrests.
The victims of the shooting were not immediately identified by police, but relatives said they had learned that two of those slain were Roman Luisi and his father, Robert Luisi, both of Los Angeles. A relative said Monday night that the family had been told the two men had been shot, but declined further comment.
Police said the shooting at the 99 Restaurant in the Charlestown section of Boston was apparently the result of an altercation, but declined further speculation on a motive.
"This is another case of senseless violence," said Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans, speaking at a press conference outside the restaurant.
The bloody incident, which occurred about 1:25 p.m. when the restaurant was packed with about 50 diners, sent shock waves through Charlestown, one of Boston's most close-knit neighborhoods. Although it has been the scene of mob-related shootings over the years, most residents said they considered the neighborhood near the restaurant, which abuts Bunker Hill Community College, to be safe.
One witness told WBZ Radio in Boston that the violence inside the restaurant reminded him of "a war movie."
The man, who had been watching television at the bar, said, "I heard what sounded like a balloon popping. I looked over to see if there was a party or something like that. I heard another 'balloon popping' and saw some smoke . . . I realized it was not a balloon. Two or three shots later I hit the deck hoping it would stop. When it didn't, I dove out the back door."
Evans said at a press conference that at least four men were seated in the first booth in the restaurant when at least two other people began arguing with them.
At least 13 shots were fired and five people were struck, said Evans, who would not identify the weapons involved. Four of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene. A fifth, Richard C. Sarro Jr., 27, of Boston, who was shot in the stomach, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he was in serious but stable condition, police said.
At the time of the shooting, two off-duty police officers from the neighboring city of Everett were having lunch. The two officers pursued the supects into the parking lot, where they were joined by two Boston police officers on detail nearby. The officers arrested the two suspects, recovering two handguns.
The suspects, identified as Damion A. Clemente, 20, of Medford, Mass., and Vincent John Perez, 27, of Boston were scheduled to be charged in Charlestown District Court today with four counts of homicide and weapons possession. Police would not say whether either suspect had a prior record.
Authorities declined to speculate about the nature of the argument preceding the shootings or whether those involved had known each other before the incident.
Evans also declined to say whether the shootings could have been planned as a "hit," except to note, "If it was a hit, it was a very sloppy hit in broad daylight, inside a crowded restaurant."
He said police had not ruled out that shots were exchanged between the groups, but said the evidence did not suggest that.
Roman Paul Luisi, one of the victims identified by relatives, was acquitted of murder charges in Los Angeles on Aug. 24, 1994.
Luisi was charged in December, 1992, in the shooting deaths of Eric Pierce, 25, and Adrian Thames, 23. Luisi, working as a bouncer at a now-closed Hollywood night spot, had ordered Pierce and Thames to leave about 2 a.m. on Nov. 30 after they had argued with other men inside the club.
When Pierce, Thames and a friend, Andrew Murphy, returned to the club a short time later, Luisi burst out the door, shouted something and opened fire, prosecutors said. Luisi testified in that case that he thought Pierce had a pistol, but no gun was ever recovered.
The jury in the 1994 case found that Luisi was acting in self-defense because he feared that the two men had returned to kill him.
Times staff writer Tony Olivo in Los Angeles contributed to this story.