Eyewitnesses to the shooting of Officer Dan Talbot took the stand late last week in the murder trial in Boston, both testifying as state’s witnesses due to a cooperating agreement with the prosecution.
Both young men said they saw defendant Robert Iacoviello Jr. fire off shots, but neither could say definitively that they saw the shot that killed Officer Talbot.
Also, neither really established just how many shots were fired, where those shots were aimed and who fired first. That’s because both had different accounts of the events.
The key witnesses, Thomas Papandrea and Dararin ‘Johnny’ Heang, were both present with alleged shooter Robert Iacoviello Jr. on the night of the shooting and testified that he had the gun, though neither story was consistent and defense attorneys tore into their testimony.
Heang testified for the better part of a day, spending about five hours on the stand. His brother Jimmy, who is charged as an accessory in the case, sat facing him the whole time.
Johnny Heang – an admitted Blood gang member – told the jury that he came from a violent past and that he was thrown out of school for fighting, had been charged in an attack using a meat cleaver and had several drug convictions.
He was by no means an angel of a witness, but he was at the scene.
He told prosecutors that he had been at a Cooledge Street party on the night in question, just a month after getting out of jail.
He reported getting a call from Derek Lodie – who was previously charged in the case as an accessory but has now taken a plea agreement and is serving 8-12 years.
Then, he reported getting another call from Lodie in which he heard some men and women calling out things like “Blood Killer” and using profanity towards Lodie and the Bloods street gang.
Heang said he told Lodie to stay put and that he and their crew – called B-Way – would come get him and teach those taunting him a lesson.
Heang alleged that he, Iacoviello and others previously had a fight with a group of young kids called the ‘Northgate Crew’ at Revere High School one afternoon during dismissal. Heang said that night he thought it might be the Northgate Crew on those bleachers taunting Lodie.
“We were going to go down there to start some trouble,” he said. “I told Derek Lodie to stay because we didn’t want the other group to leave – the people we thought was Northgate. So, we went to my house to get the gun.”
He testified that on that night of Sept. 29, 2007, he, Iacoviello and Papandrea drove to the high school. However, they parked on True Street to avoid being seen on camera. At that point, he said they ran towards the baseball field and Lodie, all the while hearing loud voices and yelling.
Though it was believed that the group of three men were in the nearby parking lot when they allegedly fired, Heang said they ran onto the walking path, where they encountered Lodie speed walking towards them and Talbot also coming in their direction.
Heang said he was on the left side and Iacoviello was in the middle and behind him. Papandrea was on the right side, also in front of Iacoviello.
“Lodie was coming towards us on the right side, towards the trees,” said Heang. “I heard a shot behind me, over my right shoulder,” he said. “That’s when I ducked down. I turned around and saw Bobby Iacoviello shoot twice in the air. That’s when I seen the guy drop…We was just trying to scare them, let them know not to [expletive deleted] with us. I didn’t think Bobby would shoot the gun.”
Heang said he ran from the scene with the other two young men, and they went back to the Cooledge Street party. Neither Heang nor Papandrea were ever charged in the case as they both signed cooperating agreements to avoid prosecution.
He also testified that he entered into a cooperating agreement more than six months after the crime, and it was that fact – along with his version of events – that defense attorneys Peter Krupp and Willie Davis attacked successfully.
Krupp pointed out that an attorney appeared out of the blue to assist Heang in making the agreement while he was in jail in February 2008. It was later in that month that he gave his first statement, completing the agreement in March 2008.
Krupp: While in custody you learned Bobby Iacoviello was charged with Daniel Talbot’s killing?
Krupp: You knew Papandrea was not charged? You put two and two together and figured Papandrea must be cooperating with the government?
Krupp: You didn’t want to be charged with anything in connection with the case, right?
Krupp: And if you testified you could avoid prosecution?
Attorney Krupp went on to attack the agreement, saying that Heang repeatedly told lies in his statements to police, despite the fact that the agreement said he had to be completely truthful or he would lose his immunity.
He pointed out that Heang lied about where he lived, about whose name his cell phone was registered under, and – most importantly – about when he was on the phone to Lodie.
Krupp: Was it pointed out to you that was incorrect?
Krupp: By who?
Heang: The DA.
Krupp: When? In March when you signed the agreement?
Krupp: Did they say the deal was off?
Krupp: What mattered was that you said Robert Iacoviello had the gun, right?
Krupp and Davis pressed Heang repeatedly about who owned the gun. He told the jury that Iacoviello owned the gun despite the fact that it was kept in Heang’s house in a safe. Davis also pressed Heang to admit that it was his idea to confront Talbot’s group and to take a gun to the high school.
Heang did admit as much.
Davis: You wanted to go to the high school and start some trouble?
Davis: You told Lodie to stay there, the cavalry’s coming?
Davis: Derek said nothing about a confrontation?
Davis: It was your idea to confront them?
Davis: Before going, you decided you needed a little help?
Davis: It was your idea to get the gun?
In previous days, Papandrea took the stand and, under defense questioning, appeared to conflict statements.
Papandrea, court observers said, testified that it was the police who actually shot at the group first.
He said that he saw a shot come from the group, then he saw Iacoviello fire back.
Neither Papandrea’s nor Heang’s testimony was the same. Both – who were present during the incident – had different accounts of the events.
Papandrea was the first of the defendants to cooperate with the prosecution, signing a cooperating agreement just days after the shooting – on Oct. 1. He was put into the witness protection program and boarded in a hotel somewhere in Massachusetts. Later, he was allowed to leave the state and go to Las Vegas.
He has never been charged with any crime in the Talbot matter, and has immunity due to his testimony last week.