Almost a year after their son was fatally shot in a brazen, targeted daylight attack in a Stoughton Street barber shop, Alberto “AJ” Monteiro’s family will remember his life on Aug. 25 with an event centered around the sport that he loved most, with the people he loved most.
Family, friends, and other community members will gather in Roberts Playground for an afternoon of flag football, food, music, and family fun. Along with funding a memorial scholarship in his name, the event is envisioned as a way to remember a young man in ways beyond his death, the result of a crime which remains unsolved.
“Our mission is to bring children and youth together for a fun game of flag football promoting peace and unity,” explained Arminda Baptista, AJ Monteiro’s mom in a letter requesting donations for the game. “It’s a family and a community gathering, where everyone can come as one and play, and feel safe and secure,” she said.
Monteiro lived less than a mile from Creole International, a small barbershop tucked into a small row of storefronts along Stoughton Street, about halfway between Uphams Corner and Pleasant Street. On Sept. 5, 2017, he was 21, working two jobs to put himself through college, and in need of a haircut.
It was there, a little before 11 a.m., that a gunman entered the shop and shot and killed AJ, the only person targeted in the attack, as he sat in a chair.
In the 11 months since the shooting, no arrests have been made and Boston Police have had little to say publicly about the investigation, other than the fact that it remains open and “active.”
“It’s so disappointing that someone can walk into a business place and do such a thing without shame or care,” said his mother, Arminda. His uncle, Jose Baptista, is frustrated, too. He grew up in Uphams Corner and now looks at his home neighborhood, one he grew to love, with a different eye.
“I’m disappointed in the people I call my neighbors,” he said, “in how things are settled, in the lack of involvement by parents in their children’s’ lives. Take a more proactive approach if you happen to see your child going down the wrong path. I’m disappointed in the entire community, including myself.”
While the crime itself quickly faded from public view, Monteiro’s survivors have quietly worked to keep his memory alive. They set up a scholarship fund in his name at Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy (SJP2CA), where he studied in grammar and middle school. Recipients must display the characteristics that his family says AJ himself represented—a respect for and love of God; the spirit of love, peace, and friendship; hardworking and determined; and a humble and loyal friend. Preference is given to students moving on to his former high school, Catholic Memorial High School.
There’s already been an awardee: Jarrell Saget, who will receive $500 toward his education at Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in Brighton next year. “Jarrell has been a Saint John Paul scholar since he was 4 years old,” Nicholas Cuomo, principal of SJP2CA in Neponset, told the Reporter. “[He] has embodied the spirit of AJ at SJP: hardworking, determined, humble, and a close relationship with God.”
And, with the upcoming flag football tournament, the family hopes to make a lasting tradition out of the sports that AJ loved to play. His passion for football was inspired by his uncles, both football players who encouraged him from a young age. After joining the Dorchester Pop Warner Eagles at six years old, AJ was hooked.
His uncle Jose remembers the first time AJ quarterbacked the John D. O’Bryant Tigers.“[He] must have been 7 or 8; everybody was screaming and cheering. I remember looking up at him and his eyes were locked in and focused on me. It was really inspiring to him; it was jaw-dropping. I remember coming off the field, all muddy, and he gave me the biggest hug. I’ll never forget it.”
AJ was a natural at the sport, taking the field as a tight-end and running back.
“I’m looking forward to everyone remembering something he really enjoyed,” said Baptista. “I’m excited for everyone to get together on the field and understand that this was a happy place, a place he enjoyed and a place where he thrived.”
The sport remained close to AJ’s heart over the years; days before he died, he was in the car with his mom and her fiancé when they passed a Pop Warner Eagles game. “He made us do a whole U-turn and go back,” she remembered, smiling, “Because he had to donate some money to his team.”
That team, “his team,” will be present at the August event, playing against kids from the Boys & Girls Club in memory of their former teammate. There will be some adult games going on as well, for the older family members who wanted to play.
There will be live music and a DJ, food, drinks, and even a bouncy house.
“Each day is a new day,” says AJ’s mom, Arminda. She finds her strength in her other kids — a daughter, 18, and a son, 4.
“It’s really tough on them,” she says, “especially my daughter. My son...I don’t know how he’s going to process all of this.
“For some reason,” she continues, “he’s molding into AJ: he’s laidback, a homebody, a hugger, so affectionate. I just hope he stays that way and doesn’t think the world is mean and cruel and awful.”