‘I still have the bullet in my leg,’ victim testifies in Brito trial | News
SALEM — Michael Rosa has known Brian Brito since childhood, and Brito was living with him in 2017 when he was arrested on charges connected to a violent crime spree across three North Shore and Merrimack Valley communities.
Brito had a legally purchased 9-millimeter handgun from when he lived in New Hampshire, and he often talked to Rosa about getting licenses to carry in Massachusetts, according to court testimony. The two had also gone to shooting ranges in New Hampshire. Eventually, Brito applied for a gun license in Massachusetts, but the application was denied for reasons that haven’t been disclosed in court.
Rosa, called to testify in Brito’s trial on Wednesday, clearly recalled his friend’s manner in late March 2017, when Brito is accused of shooting and injuring two women in Lawrence, then shooting and killing a man in Lynn two days later. A gun similar to that seen by Rosa was also used to rob a convenience store in North Andover, where a clerk was also sexually assaulted just hours after the murder in Lynn.
‘He said he was going to Lawrence’
Brito was arrested in Peabody by state police troopers the night of the incidents in Lynn and North Andover, two days after those in Lawrence. He was carrying a small, black handgun, a magazine capable of carrying 12 rounds, and a box of ammunition, at the time of his arrest.
Prior to the arrest, Brito was living with Rosa and his family, Rosa testified Wednesday.
But something was happening. Rosa recalled Brito suddenly had a damaged window on the front passenger side of his car after visiting Lawrence on March 25. and Brito told him “someone had broken it” while he was in Lawrence. Rosa suggested he use a trash bag and duct tape to cover the broken window for the time being.
But otherwise, nothing about March 25, 2017, seemed out of the ordinary between the two friends.
“Where did he tell you he was going?” prosecutor Jessica Strasnick asked Rosa.
“He said he was going to Lawrence,” Rosa answered.
“Did he tell you why he was going to Lawrence?” Strasnick asked.
“I think going out to check out a bar or something,” Rosa replied.
“Before he told you he was going out to Lawrence, did you notice anything unusual about him?” Strasnick asked, to which Rosa answered, “not that I can remember.”
“Did you have any concerns about him?” Strasnick pressed, to which Rosa’s response was “not at that time.”
‘I still have the bullet in my leg’
Brito, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges connected to all three of the crime scenes. Thursday morning, jurors were taken to view the crime scenes in person.
Before the bus to Lynn, Lawrence and North Andover could depart, however, the jurors heard from the second victim in the Lawrence shooting: Qyanna Gonzalez, the 26-year-old driver of the car Brito’s accused of firing upon, and who, at the time, was named Qyanna Simpson.
“Do you remember what you did that day?” asked prosecutor Maria Markos, about March 25, 2017. That day, Gonzalez spent time at the mall with other friends, after which she offered to give Allana Roy, a friend she met on Snapchat a week earlier, a ride to Lawrence.
“We were just sitting on the couch watching TV,” Gonzalez said, “and she (Roy) had come out of the shower and said, ‘Can you bring me to Lawrence?’ I said ‘yeah, that’s no problem.’”
The two arrived at 117 Berkeley St., Lawrence, about 10:30 p.m., Gonzalez testified, after which the women pulled out their cell phones and both began making posts on Snapchat.
After a few minutes, Gonzalez said, a car pulled up alongside them. The driver — a figure wearing a ski mask presumed to be a Hispanic male based on the limited detail they could make out — was pointing a gun directly at them.
“That’s when I looked at Allana and said, ‘Are we getting robbed right now?’” Gonzalez said. “The first gunshot went off. It went through my driver-side door… I didn’t realize it at the time. The gun was shot again, and it broke through my driver side window, and it smashed glass all over my face.
“I put the car in the reverse, and that’s when the car (with the driver shooting at them) sped off down a side street,” Gonzalez continued. “I drove to the McDonald’s on Jackson Street, because my first thought was, ‘He’s going to come back and finish the job.’”
At that point, Gonzalez said, she noticed her left leg had gone numb.
“I looked down and was gushing blood,” Gonzalez said, noting she then looked at Roy in the passenger seat, to find “her face was dripping blood, and it looked like she had been shot in the head.”
Where Roy remains blind in her right eye after a bullet hit her right between her eyebrows, the bullet was removed via surgery and became evidence in the investigation leading up to the trial. The bullet that hit Gonzalez, however, was never recovered, she testified.
“I still have the bullet in my left leg,” she said. “When it rains, or it’s very cold, I still get pain in my left leg. I’ve been to multiple doctors to see if they can take the bullet out, but they’ve said it would cause more damage to take the bullet out than to keep it in.”
Rosa on friendship with Brito: ‘It’s complicated’
When cross-examined by John “Jack” Cunha, Brito’s defense attorney, Rosa testified that he often had deep conversations with Brito.
“With that Saturday, you didn’t know where he was,” Cunha said, referring to the night the two women in Lawrence were shot. “You didn’t see him again until Sunday morning…”
To both statements, Rosa said, “Correct.”
“As I understand it, you knew him for a long time,” Cunha said. “You felt like you were brothers in terms of the relationship…but now you’re not sure if you’re friends.”
Rosa paused, keeping his focus on Cunha, as Brito, seated maybe 30 feet to his attorney’s right, awaited his answer as well.
“It’s complicated,” Rosa said.
“When he came to live with you, how did he seem?” Cunha asked.
“At first OK… then, he seemed a little depressed,” Rosa said.
“Did he talk about strange things?” Cunha asked, to which Rosa answered, “We talked about a lot of things.” Cunha pressed further: “What kinds of things?”
“Anything, like day-to-day things, working out, motorcycles, firearms… anything,” Rosa said. “Abstract thoughts, aliens, history, our purpose.”
“Did he go off on weird tangents?” asked Cunha.
“All the time,” he said.
Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.