Boy, 15, shot dead in Holyoke

By DUSTY CHRISTENSEN

Staff Writer

Published: 12-15-2020 5:24 PM

HOLYOKE — City residents are mourning a 15-year-old boy who was shot to death during a spate of four shootings Saturday.

On Monday, police arrested city resident Angel Gonzalez, 22, on a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of the boy, whom police did not identify. Details about his arraignment were not made available Tuesday.

Police found another victim at the scene of Saturday’s shooting, who was also rushed to Baystate Medical Center with his injuries. In a statement Tuesday, the Hampden district attorney’s office did not identify either victim.

“Members of the Massachusetts State Police Violent Apprehension Section pulled the suspect over on 1-91 North in Massachusetts and placed him into custody,” the statement said. “He was transported to the Holyoke Police Department where he was booked and charged with murder.”

In the statement, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni and Holyoke Police Chief Manuel Febo offered their sympathies to the victim’s family.

Vulnerable youth

Neighbors gathered Monday evening at a vigil for the boy on the corner of Sergeant and Walnut streets in the Churchill neighborhood. One of those who gathered at the scene on Monday was Ward 4 City Councilor Libby Hernandez.

“It’s so sad,” Hernandez said Tuesday morning. “I’ve been just sobbing from last night. So young.”

Hernandez said the shootings could have been connected with the drug dealing that takes place in that area, and that for many young people in the city’s lower wards the lack of economic opportunity leaves them vulnerable to the drug trade. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept many young people out of school, has only made matters worse, she added.

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Hernandez said that state and local police have stepped up patrols in the area and that neighbors who are fearful about shootings and violence in the community appreciate that. But she also said that the Black and brown residents of the lower wards — the city’s most impoverished citizens — will bear the burden of that increased enforcement.

“We welcome the increased police visibility, but then again we’re also going to suffer,” she said. “Maybe people who have nothing to do with this are going to be looked into, are going to be stopped, are going to be harassed. So how do we strike that balance?”

Community response

The corner of Sergeant and Walnut streets straddles Ward 4 and Ward 2, which is represented by City Councilor Terrence Murphy. Speaking Tuesday, Murphy expressed sorrow at the tragedy of a young person being killed. The incident Saturday marks at least the sixth shooting death in the city this year.

“It can’t just be about policing, it has to be about the community as a whole getting together,” Murphy said.

He noted that the issue of drug dealing on Walnut and Elm streets was the subject of a recent meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, where landlords of buildings in the area discussed intimidation, threats, and other tactics dealers allegedly use to establish themselves in the area.

“We need to figure out a way to work together. It’s not trying to pick on someone, it’s trying to make the community a safer, better place to live,” he said.

Two more shootings occurred in the same neighborhood while police were investigating the killings Saturday afternoon. Arrest records show that police arrested 19-year-old Chicopee resident John Namid Santiago on Saturday afternoon on several gun-related charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon, assault to murder, and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building.

Holyoke police did not respond to multiple requests for information on Monday and Tuesday.

The Holyoke District Court clerk’s office did not send the Gazette documents from the cases against Gonzalez or Santiago, saying that the clerk would have to approve the release of those files. A court employee said that in one of the cases, a judge had placed files under seal, though they did not specify which case.

Court documents are public records under Massachusetts law, and only a judge’s order can “impound” court records. Public access to the court building has been restricted, however, and the only way to obtain those records is to email the clerk’s office.

Remembrance

Votive candles and balloons remained at the corner of Sergeant and Walnut streets on Tuesday morning in memory of the slain teen.

“For those I love I will always sacrifice,” somebody wrote on one of the balloons. “I love you,” read another.

In front of the candles sat a Bible, a cross propping it open to the book of Psalms. The passage of Psalms 23 is frequently read at funerals.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” the passage reads.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.]]>