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Family mourns honors student

Teen, 14, described as popular athlete

By Travis Andersen and Jeannie Nuss
Globe Staff | Globe Correspondent / May 10, 2010

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Verina Martin had planned to spend her Mother’s Day marching to end the violence that killed her cousin’s son in 2007. Instead, while relatives walked in yesterday’s annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace, she was home mourning her 14-year-old son, who was fatally shot Saturday afternoon.

Her son, Jaewon, a popular honor roll student, would have graduated from eighth grade at the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury this year.

“He’s only 14 years old. He didn’t live his life yet,’’ said his grandmother, Susie Martin. “And he didn’t deserve to be shot down like that.’’

Police found Jaewon Martin and another unidentified juvenile suffering from gunshot wounds near a basketball court when they responded to report of a person shot about 3:41 p.m. near 944 Parker St., at the border of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.

As of yesterday evening, Boston police had made no arrests and released no information about suspects or a motive.

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said last night that detectives were working “around the clock’’ to solve the case. They are trying to determine whether Martin and the other youth were the intended targets, she said.

A dark-colored vehicle was seen leaving the area where the two boys were shot, said Boston police spokesman James Kenneally, who asked that anyone with information call the homicide unit at 617-343-4470.

Authorities rushed the unidentified victim to Children’s Hospital, where he was treated for injuries not considered life-threatening, police said.

Martin was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The teen’s death is the 21st homicide this year, the same number as this time last year, police said.

Martin’s uncle, Jeffrey, said in a phone interview yesterday afternoon that he had identified the body.

“That was one of the roughest days of my life,’’ he said as he spoke from his nephew’s room in the family’s Dorchester home.

Awards for academic achievements and basketball in the boy’s room pointed to his potential.

“I’m looking at his trophies right now,’’ Martin’s uncle said.

Hours before the shooting, Martin left home to buy Mother’s Day gifts for his mother and grandmother, said his uncle. He never returned.

Giving was part of Martin’s nature, said his uncle. He used to take neighborhood children to the park and buy them ice cream. He wanted to work with young people when he grew up.

“He loved kids and helping people,’’ his uncle said.

At school, Martin was well-known and well-liked by students and staff, said School Department spokesman Matthew Wilder.

“It’s a really tough day for the school community,’’ Wilder said.

School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson and Timilty principal Valeria Lowe-Barehmi visited the family’s home to offer condolences, Wilder said.

Grief counselors will be on hand at the school today and through the week as needed to help students and faculty members cope with Martin’s death.

“Any time a student is killed in way like this it just shocks our entire school community, especially when it’s such a young life,’’ Wilder said. “We really do send our thoughts and our prayers to the family.’’

Yesterday afternoon, a white teddy bear and pink flowers sat at half court, near where the two boys were shot. By last night, there were seven candles and seven stuffed animals.

Martin’s second cousin, Lakeisha, said Martin and his friends wrote to officials urging them to begin improvements of a park next to the school.

“They got a letter from him and his friends, and now they’re building it,’’ she said as she walked in the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.

Martin seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. He played Pop Warner football, basketball, and was getting ready to work his first summer job, relatives said.

Two weeks ago, Martin visited his cousin, Clydies Freeman III, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “He knew where he wanted to go,’’ said Natasha Steele, his second cousin, who was also marching in the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace. “He wasn’t into trouble.’’

His accomplishments and gentle character left relatives searching for answers.

“I don’t know why [anyone] would pick on my little nephew,’’ Martin’s uncle Clydies Freeman II said outside the teen’s home.

While the family is focused on the healing process right now, Freeman said, he wants justice for his nephew.

“Hopefully they catch [the person] who did this heinous act,’’ he said.

The Rev. Hurmon Hamilton , pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, said Martin’s death marks a great loss not only for the young man’s family, but for Boston.

“This 14-year-old who died yesterday was not just a 14-year-old of his parents,’’ Hamilton said. “He was not just a child of Roxbury and Dorchester and Jamaica Plain. He was . . . a child to the Greater Boston family.’’

He said the homicide underscores the importance of programs that give young people a positive alternative to violence.

“I pray that this is not a prelude to the summer,’’ said Hamilton, who also serves as an executive board member of the Black Ministerial Alliance.

Globe correspondent Sean Teehan and Maria Cramer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.