A man was shot to death outside a courthouse in Medford, Massachusetts, and his uncle is facing a murder charge, officials announced Thursday night.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan and Medford Chief of Police Jack Buckley confirmed in a joint statement they are actively investigating the deadly shooting that occurred just before 5:00 p.m. Thursday outside the Cambridge District Courthouse.
Officials initially said the two men involved were known to each other. Later Thursday, Ryan held a press conference in which she identified the suspect as 44-year-old Chenghai Xue, the victim's own uncle.
According to Ryan, Massachusetts State Police and Medford police immediately responded to the courthouse located on Mystic Valley Parkway after a witness called 911. A Middlesex Sheriff’s Office correction officer and court officers from the Massachusetts Trial Court were also on scene.
Citing a preliminary investigation, the district attorney alleged that Xue fatally shot his nephew, a 23-year-old Revere man, in the courthouse parking lot after the two had a hearing inside. Ryan said Xue was seeking an extension of a restraining order that he had against his nephew, however a judge decided Thursday that it would come to an end.
Following the hearing, both men left the courthouse and headed to the parking lot where their vehicles were both parked. Xue then allegedly got into his vehicle -- a white SUV -- and drove at his nephew, striking him, as well as other vehicles in the parking lot, Ryan said.
Xue then allegedly got out of his vehicle carrying a handgun, leaned over his nephew and shot him multiple times, Ryan said. The victim -- whose name has not been released -- was pronounced dead on scene, and Xue was taken into police custody.
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Attorney William Barabino represented Xue in the case involving the restraining order and spoke to NBC10 Boston on scene shortly after the fatal shooting. He said Xue had taken out a restraining order against his nephew a couple of years ago, though he would not say why the two had a troubled relationship.
According to Barabino, the judge's decision Thursday not to renew the restraining order Xue had against his nephew must have affected him more than anyone realized.
“It’s emotional, it's powerful stuff, it just really affected him, apparently, more than I could see. I knew it affected him, clearly, but it affected him obviously a great deal,” Barabino said.
Xue's attorney initially thought he heard construction noise but then came outside and realized what happened.
“He apparently pinned him against the car and then shot him five times, fatally,” Barabino said of what allegedly happened in the parking lot.
Barabino says he kept his client at the scene until police arrived.
"I went in and just kind of put my knee on his back, just kind of rubbed his back a little bit, just sort of comforting him I guess," he said. "I just kind of looked at a dead body over here, and my client here, and I knew the police would want to have him, so I just kind of held him there with my knee."
Barabino says he was saddened by what transpired Thursday, noting how comfortable he felt around his client because of his friendly demeanor.
"It's just really sad...he was so gentle, so kind. He didn't have any history of violence. He never had a restraining order against him. He never had any allegations of physical abuse," Barabino shared with reporters. "He grew up in China originally, and he got his PhD there, it was in statistics...just a very bright guy. He was basically number one in all of scholastics, all his education. And then he went over to post doc at Harvard in statistics. And he has two children...And I know he loves his children very much."
"There's gonna be two children at home who do not have a dad if in fact he's the killer and he goes to jail for the rest of his life," he added. "He was very kind, and pleasant, and timely, and decent, and just like the type of guy you always would want working next to you, you know what I mean? So as a result, you're going, 'wow, wow, I didn’t expect that.'”
Barabino also noted how sad he felt for his client because his life is never going to be the same.
"It's really upsetting...he's a very kind, and gentle, pleasant guy, but obviously, it was building stuff up inside that none of us knew about, or at least he didn't have the ability to express it. So yeah, it's disappointing."
The district attorney would not say whether Xue has a history of violence but she did confirm that he has a license to carry.
Ryan also would not comment on the bad blood between the two family members, saying it would be discussed during Xue's arraignment. A motive for Thursday's shooting was not immediately known.
“We know the restraining order was not renewed,” the DA said. “We don’t know that that is the reason for whatever happened outside.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, aerial footage from the scene showed a large police response outside of the courthouse, with the primary in the back of the building and crime scene tape blocking off both sides.
Investigators also were focused on the area where the suspect and victim's vehicles were parked in close proximity to each other, with the suspect's vehicle at an angle to the victim's vehicle.
Ryan said she was disturbed that the shooting happened at such a busy time outside the courthouse.
"First of all it's middle of the day. In addition to the court house, there are a number of other businesses, and restaurants and things in that area, so obviously there's a safety risk posed by this," the DA said. "In addition, people are always at the court house for incidents that are upsetting in some way. Either they are a victim, they are a witness, or they have found themselves in trouble. It's already a place that’s a very heightened, tension situation."
"To have something like this unfolding, particularly at the end of day as people were leaving the courthouse, employees were leaving, other things were finishing up, people making their way to the parking lot, it's extremely concerning," she added.
The courthouse does have security cameras and investigators are currently reviewing that video footage, Ryan said.
Xue will be arraigned Friday morning in Somerville District Court on a murder charge. It was not immediately clear who would represent him in court; Barabino noted it would be a conflict of interest for him.
Investigators were at Xue's home Thursday night, speaking with a relative inside; she did not know what had transpired.
This is an active and ongoing investigation being conducted by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police detectives and Medford police.