The man who shot a Dorchester family man to death when he confronted him about grilling in his front yard without permission will spend more than 30 years in prison.
“Is this how you want to play?” is roughly what Shakeem McNeil asked Carl Brown when the latter man asked him why he was grilling in his front yard, according to prosecutor Julie Higgins at McNeil’s arraignment the day after the May 21, 2019, murder.
An argument ensued and left that otherwise ideal spring evening, where temperatures held in the 60s even after the sun had set, charged and angry. Brown was not just bothered that McNeil hadn’t asked permission but was worried that he would drop coals in the grass or that the smoke would irritate a resident with asthma.
McNeil, who was 28 at the time, then drew a gun and shot Brown, 43, four times in plain view of Brown’s wife and left him to die in his own front yard that evening on Millet Street, the Herald reported at the time. Police found him there shortly after 8:40 p.m. and had him taken to Boston Medical Center, where he was soon pronounced dead.
“(Your) act that Tuesday night in May has now left my son robbed, my husband robbed, our entire family robbed of that joy, of that feeling, of that bond, of those everlasting memories,” Brown’s daughter-in-law wrote in a statement Higgins read Wednesday after McNeil pleaded guilty in Suffolk Superior Court.
“We not only miss Carl, but miss the life we could’ve had, the life we should’ve been able to have,” she continued. “You took all of his future memories from us.”
Judge Anthony Campo imposed a sentence of 31 to 35 years on McNeil, who at 31 years old will spend at least as much time in prison as he has been alive. Broken down across charges, that’s 19 to 20 years on a manslaughter charge, four to five years on a gun possession charge and eight to 10 years for violating his probation on an earlier case.
Police had tracked down McNeil to a Super 8 hotel in Brockton and slapped the cuffs on him at around 3 a.m. following the shooting.
This new murder charge joined an already lengthy criminal rap sheet that included a probation warrant for armed robbery out of Plymouth Superior Court and some firearm and assault charges, Higgins said at the arraignment. Only some of his prior drug charges had been dismissed.
Brown’s first wife and mother of two of his children read her own statement in court that celebrated Brown as an “honest, good man” and “wonderful father” but mourned that with McNeil’s guilty plea and sentence “we have justice, but we will never get Carl back.”
Higgins also shared a letter written by Brown’s daughter that enumerated some of the many reasons she misses her dad.
“I miss having deep conversations and talking in general, spending time together, laughter, activities together, being adventurous,” Higgins read. “Not being able to talk to my dad when I really need him at hard times, it’s rough and it really hurts.”