‘Everyone should stay indoors on July 4’: Amid spate of holiday shootings, locals lose hope

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Three hours later, a man was dropped off by a friend at Boston Medical Center in serious condition, with multiple gunshot wounds to the groin.

A day destined for celebration was once again marred by violence, a stark reminder that freedom and security in some neighborhoods are far from guaranteed. While the summer holidays are known to bring a wave of violence, the spate of attacks has deepened frustration in communities of color with chronic gun violence that has painted their neighborhoods as places to be feared, and left many many locals resigned to the belief that real change may never come.

“We have a decent community here, I can say the same,” said Tony, 55, who declined to give his last name. “But everyone should stay indoors on July 4. It’s always crazy.

Tony had arrived at his usual spot outside Dunkin’ Donuts on Dorchester Avenue just after midnight on July 4th. As he chatted with some friends over drinks, the easy summer night exploded into gunfire.

A tall man in a purple sweatshirt opened fire on a group of people standing on the pavement near Ashmont station, wounding three in the leg before fleeing. As the crowd screamed and dispersed, Tony did the same.

“I wasn’t looking for faces,” he says. “I just put my head down and ran for my life.”

Tony wasn’t hurt, but one of his friends wasn’t so lucky. A stray bullet grazed his forehead and as he fell to the ground in the parking lot, shards of broken glass dotted the wound.

“Wrong place, wrong time,” the man said Wednesday, the gash open above his forehead still raw and ringed in red. “It’s my hood, it’s [expletive] just happens sometimes.

Boston has largely avoided the increase in violence seen in many other U.S. cities during the pandemic, and violent crime in the city has dropped 15% in 2021, according to Boston police. The city had 198 Boston shooting deaths in 2021, 76 fewer than in 2020 and 14% lower than the city’s five-year average.

But while parts of the city are virtually spared the violence, shootings are a grim reality in some low-income areas, where fireworks and gunshots are indistinguishable.

Just before 11pm on the eve of Independence Day, a man was shot in the back outside Greenville Street in Roxbury, police say. The suspected shooter, Jason Meeks, 41, was arrested several blocks away and brought to Boston Medical Center, bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound to the left side of his face that had soaked his shirt in blood. Meeks was arrested from his hospital bed on Tuesday for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Rikinia Bruton, 47, heard the gunshots from her living room sofa, but could barely distinguish them from the firecrackers her neighbors were lighting across the street.

“My son said it was just fireworks, but it certainly looked suspicious,” said Bruton, a longtime Roxbury resident who lives on Mt. Pleasant Avenue. Bruton said the gunshots no longer scared her but she was worried about her youngest son, who is 15, and the other children in the neighborhood.

“I try to do things in the nearby park, painting, praying and community activities, so it won’t attract as many scum, but it’s hard to say if it’s working,” a- she said. “I’m scared for the children, because it’s dangerous for them, but I’m also annoyed.”

Bruton said the gang members who live in his neighborhood are “considerate — they know who isn’t.” disturb.” But in recent years, gang members from other parts of the city have become an all-too-familiar presence, bringing only trouble to longtime residents and their families.

“I’ll see a whole bunch of people pull up outside with tattoos of Mt. Pleasant on their arms, and none of them live on that street,” she said, “Arguing over stupid things too. They really want to lose their lives because of their influence and publicity.

Almost at the same time gunfire riddled Greenville Street, a teenager was cycling on Woodbole Avenue in Mattapan when he was shot in the leg.

Britney Firmin, 23, who has lived around the corner since childhood, said she expected these kinds of attacks in the summer.

“Everyone knows to be more vigilant in the summer,” she said. “Especially around major holidays like the 4th of July or [the Caribbean] Carnival while there have been back-to-back shootings in years past.

Firmin remembers sitting in the back of her parents’ car when she was in elementary school and seeing two people shooting at each other. It was terrifying then, she said. Now that’s predictable.

“In a sad way, the older I got, the more desensitized I became,” she said. “It’s not that I don’t care, but you get used to there being another one, and another one.”

Firmin said she was aware of gun buy-back programs and other anti-violence programs, but said they often felt distant, and too rare to solve such an old and systemic problem.

“What would make me feel safer are more robust, streamlined and incentivized gun control initiatives that consider the voice of Black families,” she said. “We’ve been dealing with gun violence issues for a long time, but we’re still not necessarily part of those conversations at the city government level.”

Other residents called on community organizations to play a bigger role.

“I would love to hear about local business owners, religious leaders, people who already trust the community and have something to offer,” said Azan Reid, a Mattapan resident and community outreach worker. about violence at the neighborhood community health centre.

Reid meets with family and friends of victims, witnesses, and anyone affected by gun violence to share ways to cope with the resulting trauma. Many residents are afraid to interact with teenagers and young men they perceive as dangerous criminals, Reid said. But most of these young men “feel stuck in an unhealthy lifestyle” and would benefit from the wisdom and guidance of elders, he added.

Whatever reputation Dorchester may have among outsiders, Tony and his friend said the July 4 shooting surprised them. Police said they believe the attack was gang-related, but Tony, who has lived in the same neighborhood since third grade, said most of the violence he usually sees in this area is fights between teenagers.

Shading his gash from the sun, Tony’s friend said he was not optimistic about progress.

“More ambulances might help, maybe, but we don’t want more police,” he said. “In general, it’s a cool community, but it will be difficult [for the city] do something about it when they don’t know our people.


Ivy Scott can be reached at ivy.scott@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @itsivyscott.

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