EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 8, 2009

Lawrence police believe 'drug deal gone bad' led to homicide last night

LAWRENCE — A local man was pronounced dead last night at Lawrence General Hospital from a gunshot wound to the chest, marking the fourth homicide in the city this year and the second in less than a month.

Robert Plaza, 32, of 218 Bruce St., Lawrence, had crashed his car into a chain-link fence outside of Rita Hall, an assisted living apartment building at 490 Hampshire St., about 9:45 last night.

When neighbors and firefighters went to pull the unconscious man out of the vehicle, they discovered a small puncture wound to his chest, Police Chief John Romero said.

"There was minor blood from the wound," he said. "It must have been a small-caliber gun."

When he was taken to the hospital, emergency workers confirmed he had been shot. Plaza was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"We are treating it as a homicide," Romero said, adding that police don't yet know where he was shot but think the shooting happened shortly before the accident.

Both Lawrence and State Police detectives are investigating the shooting, which may be related to a "drug transaction gone bad," Romero said.

It is the fourth homicide in the city this year, and the second in less than a month.

On May 22, a man was shot and killed during a home invasion on Weare Street, which police also believe may be drug-related.

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