Some were out for a walk when they saw the police cars speed by, others heard the news on the radio.
Day seven of the trial of alleged mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger included emotional testimony from the families of the people allegedly killed by Bulger and his gang. They talked briefly about how they came to find out their loved ones had been murdered.
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Donald Milano, whose brother Michael was killed in 1973 in a case of mistaken identity, said he was in his car and heard it on the radio. He then called home and his family confirmed that his brother had been shot to death.
Milano broke down multiple times on the stand and apologized for it.
"Excuse me. I'm a little nervous," he said as he sat just a few feet away from Bulger.
Diane Sussman de Tennen was also emotional as she recounted the ride she and her boyfriend took from their friend Michael Milano after leaving a bar one night in 1973.
"Close to the apartment we were at a stop light and all of a sudden there was this continued stream of noise of gunfire … it just didn't stop ... whatever I heard was going on and on and the car was hit with machine gun bullets," she said, adding that she instinctively ducked to the floor.
When it stopped she got up and saw the carnage.
"After the noise, the shooting, the bullets stopped, I got up and Michael Milano was forward in the steering wheel and I looked at him and I asked him if he was OK and I got no response," she said.
"I turned around and asked [my boyfriend] how he was and he was leaning forward and his eyes were glazed and he barely shook his head and I got a very low noise of 'no'."
She said she leaned on the horn until a cabbie stopped and told someone else to call an ambulance.
It wasn't until later that she realized she had been shot in the arm.
During a brief cross-examination, Bulger lawyer J. W. Carney Jr. asked de Tennen if she saw who shot Milano.
"No," she said.
Carney then asked if she could guess who shot him. She said she could speculate.
Federal prosecutors have said that Milano was an innocent victim and unintended target of a mob hit by Bulger and his gang. They had mistaken him for someone else.
Carney has tried to point out, as with his questioning of mobster John Martorano, that Bulger was not the person who pulled the trigger.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.