Suffolk DA will not bring criminal charges in BU professor’s death at JFK/UMass station

The Suffolk district attorney’s office will not bring criminal charges in the death of Boston University professor David K. Jones, who died after falling through a rusted, broken section of staircase at JFK/UMass station in Dorchester in September, officials said Friday.

District Attorney Kevin R. Hayden, who took office last week after former district attorney Rachael Rollins became the US attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement that his office had completed its investigation into Jones’s case.

“Any death is a tragedy and his family, loved ones, students, and colleagues continue to mourn his untimely passing,” Hayden said in the statement. “Based on a thorough and careful review of the evidence, however, we have determined that criminal charges are not warranted in connection with Dr. Jones’ death.”


An attorney for the Jones family said he had not yet met with them to discuss Hayden’s decision and could not comment on it. A BU spokesman also declined to comment on the decision.

“His tragic death was a terrible loss for his family, friends and colleagues,” Colin Riley, the BU spokesman, said of Jones in an e-mail.

Jones was an associate professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy, and Management at BU’s School of Public Health whose research focused on the social determinants of health and the politics of health reform.

He also was an avid runner and was out running on Sept. 11 when he tried to climb the broken Columbia Road stairs, which had been unattended and blocked off for more than a year.

After his death, it was unclear for days which state agency had oversight of the stairs. An MBTA official initially suggested the structure belonged to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, while internally, DCR officials pointed the finger at the Department of Transportation and the MBTA. Ultimately, MassDOT said the stairs were its responsibility.


Documents and e-mails show the MBTA occasionally inspected the stairs and had received repeated service requests warning about their condition from employees and commuters.

The investigation into Jones’s death began under Rollins, who announced just before she left the DA’s office that it had launched a criminal probe into a potential “lack of oversight or negligence” at the MBTA stemming from a late July 2021 Green Line crash that was followed by other safety incidents, including Jones’s death.

The MBTA said then that the agency’s top priority is the safety of its customers and employees.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for MassDOT deferred comment on Hayden’s decision to the MBTA, where a spokesman declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the DCR did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Transportation advocates were not surprised by Hayden’s decision.

Stacy Thompson, executive director of the safe-transit group LivableStreets Alliance, said the pursuit of charges may not have been benefited the public.

“I don’t necessarily think that criminal charges would have resolved the underlying chronic, systemic issues within the state agencies that were involved with this,” Thompson said in an interview. “Typically, you only see criminal charges if there are one or two people who are verifiably involved. It’s just much harder to prosecute something that is about a system failure.”

Brian Kane, the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, said Hayden had made the right choice.

“The death of Professor Jones is terrible; it’s a tragedy,” Kane said in an interview. “However, it is an accident that is not a criminal matter.”


The problem, according to Kane, is “a lack of interest in basic maintenance across all the transportation agencies,” which he blamed on the 2009 state law that created MassDOT and consolidated most of the state’s transportation functions under the new department.

“This is one of many, many examples that proves that has failed, MassDOT has failed, and it’s time for the MBTA and the transportation agencies to be able to do their jobs freely,” he said.

Elizabeth Koh of the Globe staff contributed to this report.