Pittsfield man found dead at scene of reported shooting near Durant Park

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PITTSFIELD — A city man was found shot to death on Tuesday night in the area of Durant Park — the city's first homicide of the year.

Paul L. Henry, 39, was found lying on the ground about 11:30 p.m. by Pittsfield Police after they received reports of a shooting on John Street near the park, according to a news release from the Berkshire District Attorney's office. Emergency medical technicians pronounced Henry dead at the scene.

An autopsy conducted Wednesday at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Holyoke confirmed Henry died of a gunshot to the chest.

The park, formerly known as Pitt Park, was renamed in October 2015 in honor of Rosemary Durant and her husband, the Rev. Willard Durant, who were beloved leaders in the west side community.
By Wednesday morning, crime scene investigators had cleared out of the neighborhood.

Manny Slaughter, who runs a a summer literacy program in the park, said he learned about Henry's death during his lunch break on Wednesday.
The Marilyn Hamilton Literacy Program, which had about 50 children on its first day on Wednesday, provides a safe place for kids, he stressed.

"That's very important to us that we implement a safe haven," he said. "From my past overall experiences, we have never had a problem. What happens outside the program — we can't control that."
The incident came as a surprise to Marlena Willis, community liaison for the program.

"It seems like things have gotten a little quiet," she said. "It's really unfortunate that we're this sleepy little town that all of a sudden has to deal with [incidents like this]. It does put you on guard. It's here, and we have to deal with it."

Slaughter planned to discuss the incident with staff at the end of the day about how the program can continue to be a safe place for kids.

On July 4, 2015, one man was killed and four other people were wounded in a shooting in a vacant lot on nearby Linden Street. Ronald Pinel, 25, of Pittsfield, was pronounced dead at the hospital after that shooting. Three other men and one woman also were injured.

No arrests have been made in that case.
Anyone who may have information regarding Henry's death is asked to contact Pittsfield Police at 413-448-9705. The investigation is being conducted by members of the Pittsfield Police Detective Bureau with assistance from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office, members of the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force, state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's Office and the Massachusetts State Police Firearms Identification Section.

Reach staff writer Patricia LeBoeuf at 413-496-6247 or @BE_pleboeuf.

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