Police now say eight-year-old Laquarry Jefferson died at the hands of a seven-year-old cousin who lived in the same apartment in Roxbury. Authorities are still searching for the suspect at this time.
The Jefferson family had claimed that Laquarry was killed by three armed intruders on Sunday night, and that the incident was gang-related. That is not true, according to information revealed by Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis at a press conference at Logan Airport late last night.
WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti has more on the story and the emotional reaction from the community.
TEXT OF STORY:
[SOUND OF LOGAN AIRPORT TERMINAL]
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Police Commissioner Ed Davis said Laquarry Jefferson's mother and brother recanted their original story. After further questioning, they said Jefferson was accidentally shot by his seven-year old cousin while the two were playing. The bullet came from an illegal gun.
COMMISSIONER ED DAVIS: "This is a case of two victims. You have the victim who was shot, and the seven year old who has to live with the fact that this happened for the rest of his life. So it's hard to call anyone a suspect in this case, except for the person who brought that gun into the house."
CHAKRABARTI: Davis wouldn't specify who owned the gun, but added that no one living with Jefferson was licensed to own a firearm. Mayor Tom Menino said the shooting highlighted the city's problem with illegal guns. He'd just stepped off a flight from Los Angeles, where he said the US Conference of Mayors renewed its objections to the so-called "Tiahrt Amendment". That's an appropriations rider preventing local law-enforcement from using federal gun tracing data to track illegal weapons. The guns, Menino said, need to be taken off Boston streets.
MAYOR TOM MENINO: "Just ask the family of Laquarry Jefferson, and other families in our city, about the illegal guns out there."
[SOUNDS FROM DORCHESTER AVENUE]
CHAKRABARTI: Just ask, and they will tell you.
TINA CHERY: "There is no healing within our community. It's trauma, after trauma, after trauma, after trauma."
CHAKRABARTI: Tina Chery is in her office on Dorchester Avenue. Chery says Laquarry Jefferson's death rips at wounds that have never quite healed. Her own son was killed in a gunfight in 1993. Louis was 15, and an innocent bystander when he was shot on his way to a Christmas party sponsored by Teens Against Gang Violence. Chery founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in his honor. Her Fields Corner office looks over the spot where Louis died.
CHERY: "I mean this child wasn't even born when Luis was killed. Many of the children just this year alone were babies when Luis was killed. And we're still dealing with the issue of violence? We, we, have failed our children, badly."
CHAKRABARTI: Failed, Chery believes, because the death of so many children is not a crime problem. It's a public health issue, she says. Where violence is the disease. And gangs and guns are the viruses infecting communities.
CHERY: "It's like we have been given a life sentence. That's just it, it's a life sentence. And we just have to figure out how we're going to live. Are we going to be condemned to life? Or are we going to make the best of life? And that's what people don't understand."
[SOUNDS FROM OFFICE AT DORCHESTER YOUTH COLLABORATIVE]
CHAKRABARTI: Two blocks away, at the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, program manager Greg Hill agrees.
GREG HILL: "I see parents point their fingers at the schools. The schools point their fingers at what the parents need to do. Well, we all need to get on one page and work together. Because our common goal is to make our community safe."
CHAKRABARTI: Even if it were accidental, the violence isn't entirely random, says DYC director Emmett Folgert. Gang members in the house. An illegal gun. Curious kids. Little wonder, Folgert says, that Jefferson's death is frustrating a community already besieged by fear.
FOLGERT: "What else can we do? What can we do? Can we reach down a little more, can we work a little harder, is there an extra step we can take towards young people that are being caught up in this mess, and protect the innocent from being caught in the crossfire."
CHAKRABARTI: Just then, a young man walks into Folgert's office. He's big. Bulky. Wearing baggy jeans, and a baseball cap cocked over his ear. He lives in the neighborhood where 8-year-old LaQuarry Jefferson was shot and killed. The young man says he heard the gunfire. "Bang, bang, bang," he says. "It was crazy. Like a war zone."
The young man won't go on tape, and won't give his name, because, he says, "I'm here to be safe."
For WBUR, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti.
This program aired on June 26, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.