Photo by Faith Ninivaggi
Police survey the shooting scene of a 4-year-old boy in Roxbury.
A 4-year-old Roxbury boy shot in the back last night by a cold-blooded gunman is in stable condition this morning and authorities are optimistic he'll pull through.
Cops believe the gunman was targeting a teen who was with the child, although the teen has no police record or gang affiliation, said Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. The incident marks the third time an innocent child has been struck by gunfire in the city in two months.
The youngster and the 17-year-old boy were sitting on the back porch of a three-story home on Bragdon Street at around 7:40 p.m. when witnesses said two people approached, and one fired four or five shots at the victims.
The 4-year-old underwent surgery at Boston Medical Center, police said. The 17-year-old, who was shot in the arm, was described by police as a having non-life-threatening injuries. A family member at the scene said the two wounded boys were cousins.
"It is sad when this happens to anyone, but when it happens to a child it's that much sadder," said Police Superintendent Rafael Ruiz.
A 17-year-old suspect detained by police last night was released because there was not enough evidence to charge him, Driscoll said, adding that the investigation remains active.
One witness who asked not to be named said he heard four or five gunshots, and when he rushed outside his workplace, he saw two people calmly walking away from the crime scene.
"These people were cold-blooded. They walked to the end of the block and then they ran," the witness said.
City emergency workers told the Herald the 4-year-old was awake and crying in agony as he was rushed to the hospital. They said the child was shot in the back and there was no exit wound, the bullet apparently lodging against his abdominal wall.
Danita Potter, a neighbor, said she was not shocked that a 4-year-old had been struck down by gunfire.
"Nothing shocks me anymore," she said, "but it is sad. It's a crime that happens too frequently."
A city street preacher who helps teenagers escape gang life branded the gunman as gutless.
"To me, shooting at someone when there is a baby around is the most cowardly act anyone could possibly do," said the Rev. Shaun Harrison, founder of Operation Gang Out. "These people are just cowards."
Homicide detectives were on the scene last night as a matter of course, because the child's injuries were at first believed to be life-threatening.
Yvonne Johnson, who identified herself to reporters as the victims' grandmother, said the two boys were cousins and often hung out at the family's Bragdon Street home.
Last night's senseless bloodshed was eerily reminiscent of the sickening June 16 shooting of 6-month-old Aliana Peguero, who was struck in the torso while cradled in her father's arms after thugs fired into their Mattapan home. Police attributed that incident to an escalating feud between rival Jamaica Plain gangs.
On June 30, a 7-year-old boy was hit by a stray bullet while playing kickball near his Roxbury home. An 18-year-old reputed Hyde Park gangbanger was charged in that shooting.