LAWRENCE — Investigators say a 52-year-old city worker shot and killed while he was filling potholes was not the intended target of gunfire Wednesday afternoon.
Marco A. Ruiz-Rodriguez of Methuen, a longtime Lawrence Department of Public Works employee, was part of a four-man work crew in the vicinity of 485 Andover St. He was shot about 2 p.m. and died shortly after at Lawrence General Hospital.
While investigators say they believe Ruiz-Rodriguez was not the intended target, they have not specified who they believe was the focus of the shooting.
No arrests have been made and no suspects have been identified in the murder.
Ruiz-Rodriguez was known around the city as Tony Ruiz, co-workers and friends said.
He and others in the DPW crew were “taking advantage of the good weather” and filling potholes on Andover Street, a heavily traveled street in the city, Mayor Daniel Rivera said.
He described Ruiz-Rodriguez as a “great employee who had been here many years.”
Rivera noted that public works employees are some of the hardest workers in the city “often doing thankless jobs.”
“They are pushing snow, picking up trash, picking up needles,” Rivera said.
The mayor said he met with workers in the DPW yard Thursday at 7:30 a.m. “to let them know we are all in support of them and thank them for their efforts.”
Grief counselors are being made available to workers.
“To see a fellow employee die in this manner is unsettling to say the least. We want to put our arms around them, make sure they are supported and loved and know they are not alone,” Rivera said.
“Heartbroken and sick” is how John Isensee said he felt when he learned Ruiz-Rodriguez was killed Wednesday.
“He was a guy who came to work every day, did their work and would go to their family,” said Isensee, who retired as Lawrence DPW director four years ago after a 38-year career with the city.
Isensee said he read about the shooting on Facebook and then received calls from his former employees.
“It’s so sad to see something like that happen to someone like that ... just a hardworking dude. Just a tragedy,” Isensee said. “There is no reason for a fellow employee to be killed in that manner. That’s ridiculous.”
Carlos Jaquez, a Lawrence DPW director for two and a half years, also spoke highly of Ruiz-Rodriguez. He described him as a “quiet gentleman” who was “reliable, dependable and hardworking.”
“He was a great colleague and co-worker,” said Jaquez, who is now the Andover deputy public works director. “He will definitely be missed. There’s a big hole left in the department that will be hard to fill and I am sure everyone in Lawrence is feeling the same way.”
Veteran Lawrence firefighter Juan “Manny” Rodriguez said he’s known Ruiz-Rodriguez for many years and they regularly bumped into each other when they were working around the city.
“I only know him as a great person. That is the only way I know him,” said Gonzalez, a Lawrence firefighters for 23 years.
He last saw Ruiz-Rodriguez about a week ago when he was working, he said.
The news saddened him, he said. But it did not necessarily make him nervous to work in the city.
“Listen, we live in a day and age where we always have to be aware. That is our reality now,” Gonzalez said.
On Wednesday, police were initially called to the area for a report of shots fired and found the wounded worker.
He was rushed by paramedics to Lawrence General Hospital and an immediate search was launched for the shooter.
Police simultaneously blocked off traffic and tacked up yellow crime scene tape. Public works trucks, including a dump truck with its dump body raised, were parked in the area cordoned off by police near Andover and Clifton streets.
With officers and detectives working in the area, Lawrence police brought in its mobile incident command vehicle (similar to an RV) and parked it across Andover Street.
The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health issued a statement Thursday saying it was “deeply upset” to learn of Ruiz-Rodriguez’s murder. The group pointed to seven Massachusetts workers who died due to workplace violence in 2019 and said from 2011 to 2019, 42 workers “have been killed as a result of violence in the workplace in Massachusetts.”
“We are truly shocked and upset to learn of the murder of Marcos,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Jodi Sugerman-Brozan in the statement. “We are keeping his family, friends, and coworkers in our thoughts.”
The murder remains under investigation by Lawrence and state police.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.