BOSTON — A candlelight vigil was held Thursday night for the youth worker who was fatally shot in Dorchester last weekend.
Twenty-six-year-old Dawnn Jaffier was born and raised in Brighton, and she had been a fixture at the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Allston for more than half her life.
She started going to the club by age 11, attending its after-school program. She later would spend her summers working there, running youth activities and a dance program.
A graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Jaffier had wrapped up her most recent summer of work at the club just last Friday. She would be returning to her job as an AmeriCorps health and fitness instructor at the Hennigan School next week. She was a popular fixture there, too. The kids all called her Coach Dawnn.
But the next morning she was dead.
She’d been shot in the head while attending an early morning Caribbean Festival parade celebration in Dorchester.
Police believe she was not the shooter’s intended target, and that she was hit by a stray bullet fired during a gang feud.
Keith Williams, 18, was arrested in the case and is being held without bail following his arraignment Monday on murder and gun charges in Dorchester District Court. Police say he was seen running from the murder scene and attempted to hide a .357 revolver.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Boys and Girls Club Thursday to remember Jaffier and celebrate her life. Many said it was hard to imagine a world without her, as she touched so many lives and was all about giving back through her work in AmeriCorps, City Year and other youth-oriented programs. She’d planned for a career in youth development.
The club normally would be closed this last week of summer before the start of the school year, but it has been open all week to comfort families, friends, alumni and colleagues. The club is offering grief counseling services and resources for parents on how to talk to their children about this tragedy.
At the vigil, speaker after speaker remembered Jaffier for her love of children and her influence on their lives. Here’s a sampling:
— Stephanie Wong, a friend:
Dawnn, you were such an amazing role model to all of us. You brought laughter and joy to the West End House every single day. You had a huge heart and would always take the time to reach out to all of us personally to let us know that we were special.
— Kristiana Torres:
I met Dawnn through camp. She became like an older sister to me. I needed her then and I still need her now. I wasn’t done learning from her. I’m not going to lie, this is so hard, but I’m doing it for you. I’m going to continue your legacy. I’m going to become the best teacher I can be. I’m going to make a difference in the lives of others, just as you did. And I vow to become a woman you would be proud of.
— Dawnn’s uncle, Bernard Jaffier:
The narrative of Dawnn’s life and legacy should not be overshadowed by the violence. It’s important to look at these many faces, hues, ages, you name it, that this is the promise of what Dawnn’s commitment meant to the city. And unfortunately we won’t see it materialise fully, but I believe that many of you will carry her commitment on to social service, promoting youth enrichment and really connecting with at times where we’ve lost humanity.
Dawnn’s father, Ian Jaffier:
I just want to really thank everybody who came out to show support and love for my daughter during this really, really, really, really hard time for my family. I know that you are here to support me but at the same time support my daughter and be a comfort to us.
But I also want to say that whoever the perpetrator was, but I also want to say a prayer for their family. Because I don’t know what path they took or who they are exactly but you know if you could turn back the hands of time and maybe picked up a book instead of picked up a gun at such a festive occasion, we wouldn’t really have to be here.
I love everybody that came out to support my family, the city of Boston that showed me so, so much love, so much spontaneous love that I don’t know I can repay it. But thank you everybody for coming out.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans:
I’m very fortunate to meet her parents and from meeting her parents I can see why she’s such a special girl. Brought up in the city, went through the O’Bryant school, UMass-Amherst, was working with young kids to make sure they didn’t get involved in this type of activity, and it’s sort of ironic that something like this struck down her life, because she was looking out for the community, trying to steer kids in the right direction. It’s sort of ironic and sad.
Funeral services will be Saturday at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan.