Community members are asking for systemic changes following the tragic death of 13-year-old Tyler Lawrence, a Norwood teen who was shot and killed while visiting his grandparents in Mattapan on Jan. 29.
Kenya Beaman, the city’s community engagement liaison for Mattapan, says local residents are desperate for resources to help young people address mental health concerns and community violence prevention.
“Once again, we have a young man who has been gunned down in the community, in what seems to be a targeted attack in our neighborhood,” Beaman said. “People are just outraged, tired and emotional.”
He said reducing factors like poverty and gang involvement are critical to prevent the “systematized” presence of violence, which leaves communities feeling exhausted and numb to loss.
“You should never have to feel that way about a young person losing their life,” Beaman said. “That should never be the case.”
Law enforcement on Monday announced they had a suspect in custody and would be bringing murder charges against 34-year-old Csean Alexander Skerritt. Prosecutors allege Skerritt shot and killed Lawrence, but they did not disclose a motive or provide further details about the shooting.
At a press conference announcing the arrest, Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden called Lawrence's death a "monstrous event."
"We hope that today will be the first step in the pursuit of justice," he said. "Justice for Tyler Lawrence, justice for his family and justice for this entire city."
Young people from Boston’s communities of color are still reeling from other violent incidents involving children and teens in their neighborhoods, said Abrigal Forrester, who works with youth at the Center for Teen Empowerment in Roxbury.
“These situations are quite numbing for our young people,” he said. “They're really thinking about how to be preventative, then getting stuck in the horror of these things. It’s tough and it’s sad because this has become somewhat normal for them to expect in their daily lives.”
Last fall, two separate violent incidents at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School rattled families after one student was stabbed and another was shot. Rasante Osorio, a 14-year-old boy from Dorchester, was fatally shot several times in broad daylight on Washington Street in October.
In response to the death of Lawrence, Forrester’s center is organizing community meetings and a ”cease-fire” initiative to help prevent community violence and support young people in processing the news.
“The idea is to promote peace through the power of the people,” Forrester said. “We have to take control and be accountable and involved in a preventive strategy.”
At a vigil for Lawrence on Sunday, a long line of people wrapped around the block to pay their respects to the family, including students and their families, community members and mentors who inspired the seventh-grader to pursue his passion for basketball and the arts.
The outpouring of support in Lawrence's hometown of Norwood — where the crime rate is much lower than in Boston — demonstrates a disparity between communities where violence has become normalized and where it has not, Forrester said.
“We have become desensitized to our own loss in some ways,” Forrester said. “So how do we rebuild and regain our own humanity around this issue to respond like the people who have not experienced it back to back? There’s a lot of healing that we need to do.”
Stacy Grey met Lawrence “when he was in diapers” — she lives next door to his grandparents, who he was visiting when the shooting occurred. As a mother of four Black children, she says that the risk of violence affecting her kids has always been a concern.
“It is hard as a parent because you can't let them have a normal life, and that's just not fair,” Grey said. “But this world isn't fair and it's cruel. Kids should be able to go outside, go for a walk and Mattapan should be an area where we can do that. Why can’t we?”
Lawrence’s grandparents were always with him, Grey said, ever-present guardians in a tight-knit community.
“We’d see him in the summertime, making TikToks and dancing, playing basketball, and his grandmother was always right there. If he was riding his bike, his grandfather would be walking right beside him,” Grey said. “It was just that the one time that someone blinked their eye, tragedy happened.”
GBH News' Jeff Keating contributed to this story.