Sandra Faioes was at home watching the 10 o’clock news on Feb. 3 when Darryl Max Dookhran’s mug shot appeared onscreen. Dookhran, 18, had been earlier that day on the Wellesley Hills campus of , with a loaded semiautomatic handgun in his backpack.
“When I saw his picture come up, it made me so sad,” said Faioes, Dookhran’s 10th-grade English teacher at The Engineering School in Hyde Park. “I thought, ‘How could you be so stupid? What did you get yourself into?’ I was angry.”
It’s been six months since the Dorchester teen was apprehended while standing in line at the MassBay registrar’s office. Judge Mary Hogan Sullivan deemed Dookhran dangerous at a , citing a rap sheet that “involves convictions for a shooting, an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and drug distribution.” He is being held at Norfolk County Correctional Center pending trial.
Based on Dookhran’s criminal history and his alleged gun-toting at MassBay, it’s easy to dismiss him as an inner-city thug, his former educators say. But their depictions of Dookhran are more nuanced. Beyond the record, they claim, is a young man who was trying to escape his adolescent gang life — and who made a major error in judgment.
Faioes, who no longer teaches at The Engineering School, elicited the best of Dookhran, former colleagues say. They describe a troubled adolescent whose academic career was interrupted by multiple stays in Department of Youth Services (DYS) detention facilities, but also a young man who tried to behave well at school, especially in Faioes’ class.
Faioes remembers Dookhran as a class clown; she says he was “immature, but in a very innocent way.” Dookhran’s antics were mostly harmless, even charming, Faioes recalls, and he was rarely disruptive.
“He was very engaged in class,” she said. “He was even something of a class leader, in that if he was on board, other students were too.”
Dookhran’s ninth-grade biology teacher, who like most current and former Engineering School employees asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press, called Dookhran a “genuine kid” who “most definitely” had academic potential. The teacher said he was aware of Dookhran’s misdeeds, but that the school “was his safe haven.”
An Engineering School official familiar with Dookhran’s disciplinary record, however, said Dookhran “could be personable but more like a con man, like ‘What do I need from you today?’”
The same official said Dookhran’s career at The Engineering School ended in the middle of his sophomore year, when he stabbed a rival gang member, off school grounds, and returned to DYS custody.
According to police, Dookhran was a member of the Favre Street Mobb in Mattapan. A photograph included in court documents depicts his bedroom, where a T-shirt bearing the phrase “Favre Street” hung on the wall. A “Scarface” poster adorned an adjacent wall, and a Jerry Capeci book about the mafia, “Gang Land,” sat on a bedside table.
At the conclusion of Dookhran’s dangerousness hearing, Hogan Sullivan wrote in her findings of fact that Dookhran’s most recent conviction was for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, the consequence of a fight in a Brighton High School bathroom, during which he kicked a member of another gang. She noted his suspended sentence for that offense ended Jan. 14, “only weeks before this (MassBay) incident.”
She added that he “also has a history of probation and parole violations, which suggests he is unwilling to comply with court orders.”
But he was not unwilling to learn. Dookhran enrolled at Brighton High on Nov. 30, 2009, according to school records, after serving his time for the stabbing committed while a student at The Engineering School. During his incarceration, Dookhran reached out to Faioes through a DYS counselor.
“A counselor called me and said, ‘Darryl wants me to tell you he misses you and misses your class,’” Faioes remembered.
Dookhran wanted to return to The Engineering School, according to officials there, but the school refused to re-admit him.
He lasted less than six months at Brighton, leaving on May 7, 2010, after the bathroom altercation. Guidance department staff members said they did not recognize Dookhran’s name, when asked by a reporter, but one who looked up his computer profile noted Dookhran was no dunce, at least as measured by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. He passed all three sections as an eighth grader, and in 10th grade scored “proficient” on the English exam, the only MCAS test he took before the stabbing.
Dookhran never returned to Boston Public Schools after the Brighton fight but earned his general educational development certificate while in DYS custody. He enrolled at MassBay in January.
Faioes points out that Dookhran consistently pursued academic study — in and out of custody — even when he had the option to drop out. She and the biology teacher agree Dookhran was likely making a legitimate effort to better himself by taking college courses.
There is no excuse for packing a loaded gun on campus, they assert, but there is an explanation for why someone like Dookhran — a scrawny 5-6, 115 pounds — might have felt compelled to carry such a weapon as he navigated his old neighborhoods en route to Wellesley.
“You end up portraying this image of being tougher than you really are,” Faioes said. “If you don’t have brawn, you resort to other forms of protection. You show, ‘Hey, if you mess with me, I’m not afraid of using excessive force.’”
It’s convenient to vilify Dookhran as a threat to everyone around him, Faioes says, but his armament was more a misguided act of self-preservation than a plot to harm the MassBay community, she believes.
“Maybe (people) want Darryl to be a monster so they can think only a certain type of person could do that,” Faioes said. “But he wasn’t.”