Grandmother Of Man Killed By Police: 'There Is No Bringing My Grandson Back'

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On Wednesday evening, Catherine Dagraca lay in the spot where her grandson had died just a few days before.

Authorities say Boston police shot and killed her grandson near Penhallow Street in Dorchester on Monday after he opened fire at officers chasing him on foot.

A red splotch remained on the sidewalk and Dagraca believed it was her grandson's blood. Her family pleaded for her to get up but she said the grief was too great.

"I never dreamed I'd be here with my grandson's blood on the ground right now. It's killing me because I know he was really an awesome young man."

Jaymil Ellerbe (Courtesy)
Jaymil Ellerbe (Courtesy)

Dagraca says she used to call Ellerbe her "pudding pop" and remembered when he used to sleep in her bed as a baby. When Ellerbe grew older, Dagraca said he had his troubles but he made sure his brothers and sisters made better decisions.

"He knew how to make sure his brothers and sisters were doing the right things in life even though he went through things," she said.

On the night of Ellerbe's death, police said he and 21-year-old Ernest Watkins were firing guns in Doherty Gibson Park near Fields Corner when officers arrived. Investigators have not determined who the men were shooting at.

Police pursued the men to the area of Penhallow Street, where Watkins managed to escape. He was arrested on Tuesday on gun charges.

Leonard Lee, who lives nearby and who has worked with at-risk youth in Dorchester for decades, watched Ellerbe's confrontation with police from his home.

"Looking at the whites of this young man's eyes, he was lost. Totally lost. And very very unsupported around living," said Lee.

According to Lee, the officers yelled at Ellerbe to drop his gun, but the teen back away from them.

Lee screamed from his second-floor window at Ellerbe, shouting expletives at the teen to put down the gun. He said he hoped his voice would snap Ellerbe out of his behavior, but the teen kept walking away.

After about 30 steps, Lee said he saw Ellerbe raise his gun toward the officers and fire two shots. The officers ducked for cover and continued to call to Ellerbe, but he then fired two more shots — and an officer fired back.

"At this point, the kid [staggered] back and [fell] backward but he [was] on his back, clutching on to his left thigh where the bullet hit him," Lee said.

Ellerbe then pointed his gun at the officer with his free hand and the officer fired two more shots. Lee said he saw the teen's body slam backward as the bullets hit.

Lee then saw the officers rush over and take the gun from Ellerbe's hand.

The officer pleaded with Ellerbe to "stay with me," but it was futile, said Lee.

The moment still haunts his waking and sleeping hours, he said. Lee didn't know Ellerbe, but he felt that he could have been his son, and wishes he could have done more to save him.

On Wednesday, Lee shared these moments with Dagraca and her family when they visited the place Ellerbe died. She said it helps to know someone was with him in his final moments.

But Dagraca says she wants to know everything that happened that night before she can find peace.

"I'm numb. I don't know what happened. Who [was] around? Who did this? Who did that?" she said. "I want answers because there is no bringing my grandson back anymore."

Dagraca said she hopes the Suffolk County district attorney's investigation will reveal new details. But for now, she is left with uncertainty. And her grief.

This segment aired on June 27, 2019.

Jerome Campbell Reporter
Jerome Campbell was a WBUR Poverty and Justice Fellow whose reporting was supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.



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