New details emerge in murder of Lawrence DPW worker

File photoAriel Toribio waits for his arraignment on a murder charge in Lawrence District Court on Feb. 24 of last year.

SALEM, Mass. — Before pulling a gun and opening fire on Andover Street in Lawrence last January, Ariel Toribio spotted Luis Crispin, a young man he regarded as an "an enemy'' who was part of a public works crew filling potholes, a prosecutor said. 

Toribio, 21, believed his cousin had been killed by Crispin, said Assistant District Attorney Kelleen Forlizzi during a court hearing. 

But it was veteran public works employee Marcos Antonio "Tony" Ruiz-Rodriguez, 52, who was shot and killed early the afternoon of Jan. 15, 2020. Ruiz-Rodriguez, who lived in Methuen, was a 19-year Lawrence Department of Public Works employee.

The four men in the public works crew tried to run and evade the gunfire that afternoon, but Ruiz-Rodriguez, known to co-workers and friends as "Tony Ruiz," "died right there on the pavement" from a gunshot through his pelvis, Forlizzi said. 

A bail hearing for Toribio, who is charged with first degree murder, was held last week in Salem Superior Court. Judge Salim Tabit denied the request for bail, and Toribio remains behind bars as the case moves forward.

During the court hearing, new details emerged about the shooting and the death of Ruiz-Rodriguez, which occurred a year ago Friday. 

Forlizzi said investigators have a witness to the shooting, as well as a confidential informant who is working with police. The informant has been given immunity from prosecution in the murder case, Forlizzi said. 

The afternoon Ruiz-Rodriguez was killed, a light-skinned Hispanic man in his 20s wearing a black hoodie with the hood over his head pulled out a gun and started shooting toward the public works crew, Forlizzi said. 

The workers were "pouring hot top when seemingly out of nowhere they were under fire," said Forlizzi, according to audio of the bail hearing obtained by The Eagle-Tribune. Eight rounds from a .40-caliber gun were fired, she said. 

The shooter, believed to be Toribio, fled the area and was seen hopping over fences to get away, Forlizzi said. 

The shooting was not captured on camera, but investigators were able to seize and view video taken by city-owned cameras and nearby surveillance cameras showing other activity related to the shooting, Forlizzi said.

Toribio had been in a house in the 400s block of Andover Street smoking marijuana that day, Forlizzi said. She said that after spotting Crispin working in the area, Toribio asked someone for a ride past the work site. He went by twice, and the second time, according to Forlizzi, Toribio got out of the car near the public works crew.

Gunfire was later heard and a witness "saw a man lying on the ground face down wearing a reflective vest like a DPW worker would," Forlizzi said during the court hearing. 

When Toribio was arrested last year and charged in the fatal shooting, he was free on $5,000 cash bail related to another shooting case from August 2018 on Berkeley Street in Lawrence. 

Some 200 public works employees from across the region attended the funeral for Ruiz-Rodriguez.

The next court date in Toribio's case is March 11 for filing of motions, according to court records. 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.  

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