THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

As 4-year-old faces surgery, family waits, prays, hopes

By Maria Cramer and Brian Ballou
Globe Staff / June 30, 2011

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The mother of the 4-year-old boy who was shot in the back Monday by a bullet police believe was meant for a gang member has barely left her son’s side as he lies in a city hospital, the child’s grandmother said yesterday.

“My daughter is hanging in there,’’ said the grandmother, who did not give her name because the family fears for its safety. “She is so scared right now. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He hasn’t opened his eyes up. He hasn’t responded. He hasn’t done anything. He’s just lying there, and we don’t know what’s going on with him inside.’’

Doctors have told the family that the boy, whose name is being withheld by the Globe at the family’s request, is improving. But she said the family is terrified by the sight of a boy they know as playful and energetic lying immobile in his hospital bed.

“He doesn’t look better,’’ the grandmother said, standing in the door of the family’s home, less than a mile away from Harambee Park in Dorchester, where the child was shot. “We’re just waiting. That’s all we can do, wait and pray.’’

She spoke of the family’s anguish as police continued to investigate the shooting. Law enforcement officials have told the Globe that police are investigating whether the gunman or gunmen were aiming for two young men on a white motorbike that quickly left the scene after the shooting.

The violence disrupted a balmy summer evening at the Talbot Avenue park, where people had been enjoying cookouts.

The boy’s grandmother said that he loves going to the park and that his mother often takes him there. Police have said that the child was standing next to his mother when the bullet struck him.

Doctors have said the boy is not paralyzed, but his recovery will be arduous, the grandmother said. He has a second surgery scheduled for today.

“It’s day to day,’’ the grandmother said. “He lost a lot of blood, so much that they had to give him a blood transfusion. I can’t believe what’s going on.’’

The shooting, thought to be the result of feuding between two area gangs, has shaken residents in the surrounding neighborhoods. At a community meeting in Dorchester yesterday, Alveta Haynes, a member of the Erie-Ellington Brinsley Partnership Neighborhood Association, said the group is trying to reassure neighbors they will be safe at a gathering planned tomorrow at Erie-Ellington Playground.

The party had been planned before the shooting and was billed as a family event, but neighbors now say they are worried their children will not be safe, Haynes said.

“We’re getting these vehement, passionate responses of ‘I’m not taking my child to any playground,’ ’’ she said. “Our whole thing was reclaiming our parks and playgrounds, and we have families now saying, ‘They can have it.’ ’’

The Rev. William Dickerson, pastor of Greater Love Tabernacle, who has been comforting the victim’s family, said yesterday that he and other ministers have been walking through the neighborhood, telling people not to be afraid. On Sunday, he said, there will be a party at Harambee Park featuring food, music, and games so neighbors can start feeling safe there again.

At the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston on Talbot Avenue, which abuts the park, officials plan to bolster security by installing an automatic lock system so that visitors will have to be buzzed into the building. The club already has a metal detector at the front entrance and surveillance cameras.

“In a matter of 14 days, we have three shootings in this area, so that does take a toll on the staff,’’ said Scott McLellan, the club’s executive director.

Commissioner Edward F. Davis said the majority of shootings occur on city streets, not in parks or playgrounds. Still, he said, there has been a strong police presence at neighborhood parks since Monday’s shooting that could continue for at least several weeks.

“We’re doing everything we can to make an arrest in the case, but I don’t want people to be unduly frightened by this,’’ Davis said in an interview yesterday. “This was between two groups of people who were known to each other. . I think people can feel very comfortable in the parks.’’

The boy’s grandmother expressed outrage at gang violence.

“Why would someone go to a park and start shooting?’’ she asked. “They need to give themselves up. They could have shot more kids out there or killed someone.’’

She said she doubts those responsible for her grandson’s suffering have thought about the pain they caused.

“My grandson is lying in the hospital fighting for his life right now, and whoever did this is probably having a beer and hanging out and don’t give a dang about my grandson,’’ she said. “Obviously they don’t care, because they would have turned themselves in. They don’t know how we feel. That’s my only grandson.’’

Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com; Ballou at bballou@globe.com.