LYNN — The annual Shoe City Classic basketball tournament has been canceled after a shooting outside Thurgood Marshall Middle School Friday night sparked safety concerns and organizers rejected a city proposal to continue the event without fans.
Police arrested Canseco Morillo, 25, of 36 Lyman St., at 3:31 p.m. Saturday in connection with the shooting and charged him with discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a public building, discharging a firearm on school grounds, two counts of doing malicious damage to a motor vehicle, armed assault with intent to murder, a firearm violation with one prior violent arrest, using a firearm in a felony, and carrying a firearm without a license. He is expected to be arraigned in Lynn District Court Monday morning.
Morillo allegedly fired the shots around 10:40 p.m. Friday outside the school on Brookline Street, where games were held after rain forced organizers to move from intended venue Marian Gardens. Two bullets hit a bystander’s car as she was trying to leave the scene, shattering the windshield, and lodging one bullet in the passenger seat headrest, and another in the driver’s seat, police said.
In a written statement, Lynn Police said that they found five shell casings at the scene, and that surveillance footage shows Morillo allegedly involved in an altercation with another male before turning around and firing several rounds. Police said that the shooter’s actions caused panic in the neighborhood and that witnesses hid beneath the gym bleachers when the gun went off.
“There were large groups of innocent people in the lot and leaving the area when the shooting occurred,” police said.
Police said that at least one other suspect may have been in possession of a firearm at the event.
In an interview Sunday afternoon, Mayor Jared Nicholson called the shooting traumatic for the community.
“We’re first of all relieved that no one was seriously injured but definitely very concerned about the violence and really feel … awful for the players, the participants, the organizers of the tournament for the fact that it took place the way that it did,” he said.
Nicholson said he was disappointed that organizers neglected to continue the tournament with the public safety protocols the city had set up, which included playing games outdoors in the morning before shifting games after 4 p.m. to the middle school and barring fans, but noted he understood the decision.
“I would have loved to have been able to do it,” he said. “We first and foremost needed to make sure that we address any obviously public safety concerns and I was really hopeful we would be able to come up with a way to do that and honor the importance of this tournament to the participants and for the community.”
“I feel badly that it didn’t work, but I totally understand the organizers’ decision that they weren’t comfortable moving forward with it with the modifications I do feel bad that it didn’t work out but I totally understand that decision,” he continued.
Losing the tournament is a major blow to the community, Nicholson said.
“It’s a long-standing tradition, this was the 30th anniversary and I think it represents excellence in the community for the athletes that participate it’s something for kids to look up to and aspire to. It means a feeling of community for people to get together and come back and see one another, and really pride of the city to be able to showcase what we have here,” he said. “It’s a lot that’s lost in not being able to move forward.”
“We always say there is Christmas, there is Thanksgiving, and there is the Shoe City Classic, and that is what it means to the city and means to the community,” said Ward 6 Councilor Fred Hogan, who has been one of the tournament’s organizers since its inception in 1992. “It is one of the biggest events in the city of Lynn and has been for 30 years.”
The stoppage of this summer’s rendition of a beloved community event has hit everyone hard right in the heart.
An emotional Hogan said, “Me and [Tournament Director] Simmie [Anderson], when we left the police station, we went down the elevator, we both gave each other a hug, and we were crying; we knew this is going to hurt not just us; it is going to hurt the community.”
“When the announcement was made at the Marian Gardens, people were hurting – the whole city takes in on this it might be held at Marian Gardens, but the whole city comes out for this,” said Hogan.
Anderson said he was frustrated by the offer made by the mayor’s office and Lynn Police to continue the tournament without fans.
“They tried to water my tournament down,” he said in a Sunday night telephone interview. “A summer tournament is based on crowds and families. I’m not going to have a tournament with no fans.”
While the official games were canceled, many players still gathered at Marian Gardens over the weekend.
“Saturday night and Sunday night there were games down here at Marian Gardens and it was the same type of crowd and nothing happened,” Anderson said. “If you came down here Saturday and Sunday it would’ve looked like the tournament was still going on.”
“[The incident] didn’t even happen at Marian Gardens, that’s why I’m puzzled,” he continued.
City officials will continue to emphasize the importance of preparation, collaboration, and coordination leading up to similar events moving forward, Nicholson said.
“Preparation is key, and that’s always the best place to start so that will continue to be a focus for us moving forward. The organizers did a great job preparing and working with us to get ready. It’s just really unfortunate that this unfolded the way it did,” he said.
Nicholson said safety remains the top priority for his administration and Lynn Police.
“The message is that safety’s always going to be our first priority and we’re not going to take any public safety concerns lightly and that we also really want to work with the community,” he said. “That’s what makes this particularly frustrating … these tournaments help us [build relationships in the community.] But public safety will continue to be a priority and we are committed to continuing to work on these issues so that we can all get together and have fun and be proud of all the good that we have in the community.”
Nicholson praised Lynn police for their quick action in arresting Morillo.
“That quick movement should definitely show folks that we are really committed to addressing these special issues,” he said.
As mayor, he said, he sees his job as looking out for the best interests of the city.
“There will continue to be collaboration to find ways to do big events in a positive way. So I am committed to continue working with our community to bring people together and grateful for everyone who is part of that,” he said.