Jose Roldan, 34, of Lowell, had been working at the Lowell Transitional Living Center for years now.
From 2000 to 2005, he was an off and on resident there, and he wanted to help give back.
He wanted to be the same guy who had helped him years ago.
Instead, he ended up dead, stabbed in the neck by a resident at the shelter.
There’s so much to say about this and it’s already getting late, so I’m just going to post the two stories we put together on this tonight.
Rest in Peace Jose.
Photo Courtesy Franky and Matthew Descoteaux
By Rita Savard
LOWELL — Outside the door of the Middlesex Street homeless shelter, a sign reads: No Weapons.
The message didn’t stop 18-year-old Pericles Clergeau from allegedly carrying a knife into the building and stabbing a staff member yesterday morning at the Lowell Transitional Living Center.
Jose Roldan, of Lowell, died late yesterday afternoon from a stab wound to the neck at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He was 34 years old.
Police arrested Pericles Clergeau, 19, of Lowell, at the scene and charged him with murder.
Friends and family of Roldan said last night that he had seen Clergeau hitting a woman and stepped in to stop him when the stabbing occurred. Authorities said only that Clergeau was “in an agitated state” and attacked Roldan, who tried to calm him down.
Clergeau was still holding a knife in his hands when officers Kevin Garneau and Peter St. Arnaud responded to a report of a man stabbed at 10:03 a.m.
Garneau ordered Clergeau onto the ground at gunpoint and then confiscated the knife before he and St. Arnaud took Clergeau into custody, according to Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee.
Clergeau is being held without bail for the weekend, charged with murder. He will be arraigned tomorrow in Lowell District Court.
Joe DiBiase, who has lived at the shelter for the past four months, described Clergeau as a ticking time bomb.
“Lately he’d been coming up to people and getting in their faces,” DiBiase said. “He came up to one group and said, ‘You have a problem with me? Lets go out back.’ “
DiBiase walked into the shelter just as Clergeau was attacking Roldan in the kitchen.
“I never saw so much blood,” he said. “It was awful.”
Clergeau was arrested and charged on warrants for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in Brookline last May, according to Brookline police records. At that time, he was still listed as having no address.
DiBiase said many residents at the shelter knew Clergeau had a knife, but no one reported it.
“It’s very easy to sneak things in that you’re not supposed to bring in,” said one homeless man, who declined to give his name for fear of getting into trouble with staff.
“They do checks, but they’re not very thorough. I know, I snuck in a knife that I hid inside my boot.”
When asked why he was carrying a knife, the man said, “look where we live.
“This a homeless shelter,” he said. “There are good people here but they’re surrounded by drug addicts and alcoholics too, dangerous people. Out here it’s survival of the fittest.”
Since moving back to the Lowell area from Florida in October, the man said he’s stayed at three shelters, in Mancheter, N.H., Lawrence and Lowell. He said he was kicked out of the Manchester shelter after three days when staff found he had a knife.
“In Manchester I had some dudes threaten me, said they were going to take me out,” he said.
The Lawrence staff, he added, “doesn’t check anything.” While staff at the Transitional Living Center perform checks, the man added, “they’re not good enough.”
The shelter’s interim director, Michelle Meehan, said about 150 people show up for meals at the shelter during the day, so no one is checked for weapons at those times since there are just too many people.
“Since this happened during the day, after the breakfast hour, it’s not a time we do searches,” Meehan said.
The roughly 60 men and 25 women who spend the night at the shelter most nights are searched each night.
She said there are always about 10 shelter staff on hand at the front desk, in the kitchen, and in the shelter’s living areas.
Residents said the shelter has a “sober side” and a section they said is for people on “protocol.” Homeless who are on protocol are known to have drinking and drug addictions, and are placed in a certain section of the shelter where they can be supervised by staff.
Clergeau was not on protocol, residents said. But several shelter residents standing outside the yellow police tape yesterday said his behavior was volatile.
The man who claimed he had hidden a knife in his boot said Clergeau tried to rob someone he knew on Friday night.
The slaying has sparked outrage, with one former member of the shelter’s board of directors blasting interim Director Michelle Meehan for allegedly instructing her employees not to report confrontational incidents.
Kristin Ross-Sitcawich, who left the board in September, said yesterday’s stabbing is not the first time a staff member has been assaulted.
“In recent weeks there have been a few assaults on staff by clients,” she said. “Ordinarily the police would be called, a report would be filed and the person would be banned from returning to the shelter. But Michelle instructed staff not to call police.”
Meehan vigorously denied that allegation, and said she actually has done just the opposite, encouraging employees to call police any time there is a problem, even if they’re not sure police are needed.
Meehan, said Ross-Sitcawich, “needs to go.”
Roldan’s family, including his brother, Miguel Cuba, of Lowell, said Roldan had complained about Clergeau before when he had trouble with him about two months ago.
They said Clergeau had been kicked out of the shelter briefly for causing problems, but was later allowed back in.
City Manager Bernie Lynch said he has called Gary Baker, chairman of the shelter’s board of directors, and requested a meeting with the board and Meehan next week.
“These things could happen anywhere, but at the same time there are serious concerns about the long-term management of the facility,” Lynch said.
Staff writer Robert Mills contributed to this report.
By Robert Mills
LOWELL — Jose Roldan worked at the Lowell Transitional Living Center because he was a former resident there.
“He wanted to give back,” said his girlfriend, Mary-Anne Buhlmann, who met Roldan at the shelter while he was living there off and on from about 2000 to 2005. “He said, ‘They helped me, so it’s time to give back.’”
Roldan, 34, had been working at the shelter for years. He was killed there yesterday, allegedly stabbed in the neck by a resident when he tried to intervene in a fight.
Interim Director Michelle Meehan said Roldan started off as a volunteer in the kitchen, just trying to help out, but then became a paid staff member about six years ago. He often worked overnights and weekends.
“His whole mission was to try to help those less fortunate,” Meehan said. “He had been able to overcome his own obstacles, and wanted to help others do the same.”
Roldan had four brothers and a sister, according to one of those brothers, Miguel “Miggy” Cuba, of Lowell. His mother and father live out of state. Roldan has a 15-year-old son.
The family grew up all over the place since their father was in the Army. They moved to Lowell in the 1990s.
Life was rarely easy. Roldan’s father served in the first Gulf War in Iraq and Kuwait, and had personal problems when he returned.
“He went through a lot,” Cuba said of his brother.
Roldan too struggled with his personal life at times, serving 9 months in jail for a breaking and entering back in the 1990′s while he lived in Somerville. The family moved to Lowell after that to try to avoid more trouble.
“He never got in trouble again,” said a friend, Bruce Lee, of Lowell. “He never went back.”
Lowell City Councilor Franky Descoteaux was close to Roldan. She hired him to work at her restaurant, Mambo Grill, on Merrimack Street, about six years ago when he was still living at the shelter.
Six months later, Roldan got his own place, but continued working at Mambo until about two years ago.
“We always maintained a friendship,” Descoteaux said last night.
The councilor said she just saw Roldan on Friday at CVS and gave him a hug.
She described him as a man who did the best he could with the cards that life had dealt him, and as a man who wore his heart on his sleeve.
“He laughed very easily,” Descoteaux said. “He laughed and he had a huge heart, and he cried easily too. He was amazing.”
Roldan was also a man who did all he could to steer clear of fights.
He met friend Carlos Gonzalez during his short time in jail. The two got into a fight over cigarettes.
Gonzalez said Roldan later approached him to smooth things out.
“He came to me like a man, with much love,” Gonzalez said. “I respected that. I love that man.”
The fight in jail may have been out of character, but the way Roldan responded was not.
“He was the type of person that if you had a problem with him he would let it go,” said friend Joshua Scafidi.
Cuba and the others were all told that Roldan had stepped in to calm Clergeau down when he saw him strike a woman inside the shelter yesterday. They said that was no surprise.
Roldan grew up around some abuse, so he wouldn’t tolerate it, or tolerate anyone hitting a woman.
He liked to write poetry and lyrics in his free time, and to play video games. He was working to get his GED. He was happy-go-lucky.
“He was a smart kid,” Cuba said. “He helped my mom and dad through college when he was 11. He was a straight A student before he left school.”
Cuba said Roldan left high school after their father began having problems due to his service in the Gulf War.
“He was just getting his life back together over the course of the last few years,” said friend Shawn Lawrence. “I think he was doing the best now that I’ve ever seen him do.”
Friends and family are planning a vigil for Roldan in front of the shelter today at 1:30 p.m.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Buhlmann said. “I just keep expecting him to walk through that door.”