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Ex-gangbanger helps rid Dorchester of his shooter

Ex-gangbanger helps rid Dorchester of his shooter

VALIANT: Tramane Smith struggles to maintain his emotions inside Suffolk Superior Court yesterday prior to the sentencing of Donald Williams, inset.
Photo by Patrick Whittemore
By Peter Gelzinis  |   Saturday, April 23, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Columnists

The good people of Dorchester will not have to worry about Donald Ray Williams haunting the Greenwood Street area for the next 35 or 40 years.

Should he survive prison to return one day, the gang leader called “Mann” will be nudging 70. By then, maybe he will have outgrown the desire to shoot people in the back, the way he did to Tramane Smith.

“I know there is no honor among thieves,” Smith wrote in his victim impact statement, “but what you did to me was beyond that. I loved you like a brother.”

The 24-year-old Smith declined to read those words aloud yesterday. He opted to remain in the back of a Suffolk courtroom, confined to the wheelchair that Mann, once his best friend, put him in.

Though Tramane was two years younger and a bit shorter than the skinny friend who ruled over the Greenwood Street Packers, he functioned as Mann’s true muscle.

“(Tramane) was a tough kid who could handle himself,” one cop noted yesterday. “Williams couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag. But he’d shoot you in a second.”

“Everywhere I was,” Smith said, during two full days on the witness stand, “he (Mann) was.”

On the night of Nov. 24, 2007, Tramane Smith told Mann he was leaving the gang. To prove it, he returned the .40-caliber pistol his friend had given him.

For a couple of hours, Tramane thought he’d actually made it out, until the moment he heard a shot and couldn’t feel his legs. Mann fired two more bullets into his friend’s back, then moved in closer. Just before shooting him in the face, Mann sneered over the friend he thought was about to die, “(expletive, expletive) … that’s what you get.”

All of 20 at the time, Tramane Smith managed to grab his cell phone and call his girlfriend to say he was dying. He then instructed her to get a message to his brother: “Tell my brother that Mann shot me.”

It’s not every day that Suffolk DA Dan Conley and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis sit side-by-side at a sentencing hearing. But then, it’s not every day a paralyzed ex-gangbanger helps rid the city of a one-man crime wave.

Conley called it a “watershed moment,” one that could help change the landscape of intimidation that has held places like Greenwood Street hostage.

Davis suggested that perhaps Tramane Smith’s resolve went beyond his paralysis. Before he was gunned down and left for dead, his cousin, Charles Bunch, was killed.

Two weeks earlier, Bunch had stepped out of a car Smith was sitting in, walked a block to randomly gun down the first person he saw on rival turf — and wound up shooting innocent 13-year-old Steven Odom. Tramane Smith told this jury that he was disgusted with his cousin’s act, calling him a “kid killer” to his face.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Davis sighed, “if that was one of the prime reasons this kid wanted out of the gang life. He’d had enough.”

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1332716

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