WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – There’s a country song in the story behind an apparently shocking broad daylight assault on the grounds of a city housing project Thursday.
Three men have been arraigned on charges which include home invasion and two confederates are sought by city police after a woman transferred her affections to a new man who was apparently unable to resist taunting and challenging her former boyfriend of seven years until violence erupted at Powder Mill Village.
Sgt. Paul R. Beebe, the police street supervisor, reported Thursday afternoon that he responded to a report from the emergency dispatcher of an assault in progress at the Union Street subsidized housing project along with officers Harry F. Sienkiewicz, John Barnachez, Joseph Stoyak, Terry Manos, Steven Carrington and Brendan Irujo.
The initial response which triggered the major police reaction was that five men armed with knives and baseball bats were assaulting another man.
Sienkiewicz reports that as he approached apartment complex he was flagged down by a man holding a hammer. Sienkiewicz, who knew the man from previous encounters, reports the man surrendered the hammer and said that it had been used to assault him. He said he had taken it to prevent it from again being used against him.
The victim told Sienkiewicz that he had been at a cousin’s apartment in the complex when five men burst in yelling that they were going to do him bodily injury. As the officer was speaking with the victim, his girlfriend walked to join them in a parking lot at the complex and said that she, too, had been assaulted by the men.
While the male victim said that he could only identify one of the intruders, his girlfriend said she knew them all and identified them as her former boyfriend, Justin MacBrown, his brothers, Shane and Adam MacBrown, their father Wayne MacBrown and her half brother, Andrew Stenico.
The duo explained to the officers at the scene while their injuries were tended by Westfield firefighters, and in subsequent interviews and statements, that they had been together with a resident of the apartment, the male victim’s cousin, when the incident erupted.
The woman said that she has not been staying at her Connor Avenue home since she broke up with her boyfriend of seven years “4 or 5” days earlier because the man is there and said she had been at the home of her friends where she began a relationship with a cousin of theirs, the male victim. She told Det. Todd Edwards when he interviewed her that, about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, she had been in the apartment with her friend and her new boyfriend when she saw her former boyfriend and the others arrive at a nearby parking lot in two cars. She said that it looked as if the men were looking for the apartment where they were but, when they had not found them after 15 minutes, she thought the men had left.
But the men appeared outside the rear sliding door, she said, and forced it open without knocking and all ran in “threatening to kick (the victim’s) ass.” Wayne MacBrown was armed with a small knife with a black blade, she said, and another was armed with “a wooden club or stick that appeared like a handle from a snow shovel.”
She said that she tried to get between them and her new boyfriend but her former boyfriend “grabbed her and threw her on the tile floor with enough force where she slid about 5 feet into the front door.” She said that she was then trampled by the intruders when they chased after the male victim who had fled out the door she had slid into.
She said that she saw Wayne MacBrown throw the knife he had in his hand at the male victim but does not believe he was struck with the knife.
The young man residing at the apartment told Det. Anthony Tsatsos when he was interviewed that he too recognized all five intruders and said he did not allow them into the apartment. He said that they rushed in and “pushed past him yelling and swearing” and chased the victim out the front door. The man said that some of the men were holding objects that he could not specify when they ran in and said that he saw Wayne MacBrown take a knife out of his jacket and throw it at the victim as he fled.
The man said that he left the apartment with the woman via the rear door where they encountered four of the intruders. He said that he stayed to talk with them so the woman could escape but they “left him alone and he returned to his apartment.” The male victim told Sienkiewicz that “all five men were armed. One had a wooden stick, one had a hammer, and the others had knives.” He said that when he fled from the apartment “they caught up to him outside and all five began punching him.”
The victim said that he was not able to tell if he was being struck by fists or weapons and said that he was able to escape his assailants when they were momentarily distracted by a bystander who yelled at them. He said that when he fled Adam MacBrown threw a hammer at him which struck his back, handle first, and he scooped it up as he fled to keep it from his pursuers.
A detective later said that investigators do not believe the intruders brought the hammer to the apartment.
The victim said that he was pursued by the men who were then in their two cars and was in fear of being struck by a vehicle. He told police he ran to Fowler Street Extension until a resident allowed him entry and he was able to call police.
While officers were speaking with the victims, their colleagues were busy. Community Policing Officer Steven Nacewicz reports he observed a vehicle which fit the description of one of the vehicles involved parked in front of 12 Connor Ave., the home of Stenico, with three occupants. Nacewicz reports that he spoke with the three men who were entirely cooperative and identified themselves as Wayne and Justin MacBrown and Stenico.
All three men acknowledged that they had been involved in the incident at Powder Mill Village along with Justin and Andrew MacBrown. Nacewicz reports that the men said they understood his safety concerns and the two younger men willingly exited the vehicle. When the officer explained that, although they were not under arrest, he wanted to check them for weapons for his safety and “Both were very cooperative. Andrew immediately said that he had two knives in his right front pocket” and Nacewicz took custody of the knives.
Due to the extremely frigid weather and communications issues, the three men were asked to continue the investigation at the station and agreed without protest. The two younger men were transported separately while the older MacBrown drove himself to the station. At the station, Beebe reports that Justin MacBrown told him that the male victim had been harassing him all day with text messages taunting him about his relations with his former girlfriend and saying that he was going to “kick MacBrown’s ass.”
Beebe was allowed to review the text messages and reports that the two men “had exchanged insults and both wrote that they would kick the other’s ass and they should meet to settle things.” Beebe reports that MacBrown’s messages to his former girlfriend “were basically that she was a slut.” Justin MacBrown told Beebe that they had gone to the apartment of a mutual friend “to confront (the female victim) about sleeping with (the male victim)” but had not known that her new boyfriend would be there. He said that they had gone to the door they usually use, a sliding glass door off the porch, and heard “come in” when they knocked.
Inside, the suspect said, his confrontation with the male victim started immediately and, when the woman jumped between them, “things got physical” and the victim produced a hammer and a stick and started swinging them when the woman “was pushed or knocked to the side.”
Edwards was asked to interview Wayne MacBrown and reports that he met the man in the police department lobby and asked him if he would make a statement. The man agreed and spontaneously took a closed Buck knife from his pocket which he offered to the detective. When Edwards explained that, for his safety, he wanted to check him for additional weapons “MacBrown took out another unsheathed buck knife from his pocket. He unbuckled his belt and provided me with 2 sheathed knives, one folding (knife) and another knife used to blade a close fist. On his belt buckle was another knife.” Edwards said that his pat frisk revealed a knife with a black blade which fit the description of the knife the woman said she had seen him throw at the fleeing victim. The man told Edwards “he carried these knives because he was from Holyoke and needed to protect himself.”
Edwards reports that the man said that his son Justin “was upset today because this kid was taunting him about how (he) is having sexual relations with Justin’s girlfriend.” MacBrown said that the two young men “were texting and talking back and forth on the phone” and the victim “wanted to fight Justin and arranged to meet him” at a Franklin Street bar. He said that he went to the bar with his son and, while they were waiting for the victim who did not show up, his sons Adam and Shane arrived with the woman’s brother. The older man said that Justin MacBrown “grew angry that he was being taunted” and the young men considered where the target of his anger might be. Edwards reports the man stated “they figured they would be at some projects in Westfield” and they went there in two cars.
The man said that he was the last to enter the sliding glass door and, when he got inside, “two of them were already inside chasing the kid. The kid had a bat and a hammer.” MacBrown denied, Edwards reports, “throwing any knife or having one in his hand.”
Once the interviews were completed, the three suspects at the station were each arrested.
Justin M. MacBrown, 25, of 135 North Elm St. and Andrew C. Stenico, 20, of 12 Connor Ave., were each arrested for three counts of home invasion and three counts of assault and battery.
Wayne MacBrown, 55, of 31 Butler St., Chicopee, was arrested on the same charges and also for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
When the three men appeared before Judge Philip A. Contant for arraignment in Westfield District Court Friday bail was set at $1,000 for each, pending Feb. 25 hearings.
The two MacBrowns posted bail and were released. Stenico was held without right to bail on two prior cases. Sienkiewicz reportedly applied for warrants to arrest the remaining two suspects and police are seeking the whereabouts of Adam MacBrown, 21, of 135 North Elm St., and Shane MacBrown, 19, of 39 Gunn Road, Southampton.
Media Credit: The Westfield News