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Witnesses Revisit Night of Killing

Four policeman and a bystander testify in the case of former grad student

Witnesses in the retrial of Alexander Pring-Wilson, a former Harvard graduate student charged with the killing of Cambridge teen Michael D. Colono, reconstructed the events of the night of his death in court yesterday.

The prosecution called several police officers and one bystander who witnessed the events following the altercation outside Pizza Ring in Cambridge during which Pring-Wilson stabbed Colono five times in 70 seconds.

After the fight, Colono climbed into the back seat of his cousin Samuel E. Rodriguez’s car and Rodriguez’s girlfriend Giselle Abreu drove them away across the Boston University Bridge into Boston, according to court documents.

When the pair noticed that Colono was having trouble breathing, they stopped outside of the 7-Eleven at the corner of Buswell Street and Park Drive on the edge of Brookline to get help.

The first witness to testify yesterday, Julie A. Sitler, said she was walking along Park Drive with her boyfriend when she saw Rodriguez, Abreu, and Colono on the sidewalk outside the 7-Eleven.

Officers Sean Russell and Robert Disario of the Brookline Police Department were on their way to the 7-Eleven in order to buy refreshments when they noticed a crowd outside of the store, Russell said.

Because they were outside their jurisdiction, Russell and Disario radioed for backup from Boston Police Department then noticed Rodriguez screaming and standing over an injured Colono.

Rodriguez showed them the stab wounds on Colono’s body. Disario then began giving Colono medical treatment, while Russell went out to canvass the crowd for eyewitnesses.

Russell said that Rodriguez told him that a “bunch of white kids had jumped” Colono. Though Russell estimated that there were 25 to 30 bystanders watching the scene unfold, when he questioned the crowd he said that only one, Sitler, stepped forward.

When defense attorney E. Peter Parker asked her yesterday whether Abreu and Rodriguez appeared to be cooperating with the policeman, Sitler hesitatingly said that they were “uncooperative.”

Disario said he stayed with Colono until Boston Emergency Medical Service officers arrived on the scene. He said that when he checked Colono’s carotid artery for a pulse it was faint, which indicated that Colono “was losing blood somewhere.”

“He wasn’t doing well,” Disario said.

Officers John J. Hamilton and Wayne Lanchester from the Boston Police Department responded to the call from the Brookline officers and arrived at the scene after Colono had been placed in the ambulance. Hamilton said he performed a plain view search of the car Abreu was driving and found no weapons.

Lanchester spoke with Rodriguez, whom he described as “angry, upset, crying a little bit, and pacing around.” He said Rodriguez eventually told him that he had picked up his cousin at Pizza Ring after he had been involved in a fight with “some drunk white guy” and was in the process of driving Colono to the hospital. Lanchester said he also tried to speak to Abreu as well but said she was unable to talk.

“She was crying so much that she couldn’t even say any words,” he said.

When they learned that the altercation had happened in Cambridge, Lanchester said they notified the Cambridge Police Department, who arrived 10 minutes later.

Lanchester said that Hamilton spoke with the medical technician and then told Rodriguez and Abreu that Colono’s condition was not life-threatening.

Colono died at the Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center later that morning.

—Staff writer Jamison A. Hill can be reached at jahill@fas.harvard.edu.
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