NEW BEDFORD — Police tape sectioned off a portion of Central Avenue on Tuesday morning as local authorities investigated the city’s seventh and eighth homicides of the year.
The incident, which happened at 1:30 a.m. when police responded to reports of shots being fired at a vehicle, caught residents living between Acushnet Avenue and Arlington Street off guard. No one who spoke to the Standard-Times heard gunshots or the crash between a 2001 Honda Accord and a parked car, which police discovered when they arrived.
“This is normally a real quiet neighborhood. Very quiet neighborhood,” said Rick Fournier, who grew up across the street from 200 Central Ave., where police responded.
Fournier’s father, whom he was visiting, has lived in the house for more than 60 years.
“Never any problems in this neighborhood,” Fournier said. “But, hey, where’s the world going? We don’t know.”
Stephen Bodden, a 27-year-old Taunton man, who was driving the Honda died at the scene, police said. Later in the day, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office announced a second man, from New Bedford, who was Bodden's passenger had died from his wounds at St. Luke's Hospital. Just before 9:30 Tuesday night, the DA's office identified him as Fabio Tavares, 28.
The investigation remained active throughout the day, but New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro said he was confident a resolution would be met soon.
“Every homicide that happens in the city, I feel it,” Cordeiro said. “I feel the weight of it. I feel the responsibility of it. I’m away from work, and I’m thinking about it. It weighs on me. And it weighs on many of our officers.”
Bodden was released June 10 from the ACI in Cranston, Rhode Island, for his role in the 2012 killing of a 38-year-old former Wareham man in Providence, according to Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.
Bodden pleaded guilty in October 2014 to carrying a firearm without a license and received a 10-year sentence with six years to and four years suspended, she said.
"I think there’s an underlying problem of not having many judges from the New Bedford area and unfamiliarity with the community's needs," Mayor Jon Mitchell said. "To me, that’s been a problem for a long time."
He also pleaded guilty to a felony-common law offense and received a 5-year sentence with one year to serve, she said. The sentences were served concurrently, and he also received credit for time served awaiting trial.
According to police, Bodden attempted to hide the gun used in that shooting.
“I think we've got to continue to hope the court holds some of these impact players as we bring them to the courts,” Cordeiro said.
Mayoral candidate and 30-year police veteran Charlie Perry, who held a press conference Tuesday night, agreed. However, he also said he believes the murder total will continue to increase.
"With the way it's going, yes," Perry said. "There's always retaliation. Each murder has some form of retaliation. Eventually something is going to happen."
Cordeiro’s first year as police chief in 2016 ended with three homicides. With more than two months remaining in 2017, the total has reached eight.
“Three is too many,” Cordeiro said. “I want to get to the point where it’s zero. When you have one, it’s a shock.”
Cordeiro said this year’s surge is a result of narcotics, gang violence and domestic violence.
He cited the department seizing 135 guns during the past year and 10 months as efforts to lower the violent crime in the city.
He also said there are plans to revamp how the department fights crimes, but he wasn’t ready to get into the details Tuesday. He said new procedures and plans will be released in the coming weeks and months.
“I feel very confident that we’ll get there but those remedies, like many remedies, they don’t happen overnight,” Cordeiro said. “If you have some kind of disease or bacteria it takes time for the medicine to take effect. It doesn’t happen with the first dose.”
Mitchell visited the scene of the homicides Tuesday morning and talked with residents of Central Avenue. The mayorl said more cameras will be installed in various areas of the city and wants to see the crime data used more efficiently.
"(Cordeiro) knows what he’s doing," Mitchell said. "He’s been working hard to implement the community policing strategy that will eventually pay dividends."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department at 508-991-6350 or the anonymous tip line at 508-992-7463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Curt Brown contributed to this report.