Walsh: 'Every loss is heartbreaking' in Boston amid murder spike

Mayor Martin Walsh today condemned a rash of violence that left 7 people dead in the city over the last week, including the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old Dorchester boy who was killed last Thursday in Roxbury.

The rash of homicides, coupled with a barrage of fireworks that “almost overwhelmed the system” over the July Fourth weekend, dominated Walsh’s press conference, which also included remarks from Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, who credited community cooperation for arrests in two of the murders.

“Any act of violence causes waves of lasting trauma throughout a community. Every loss is heartbreaking for every single victim and their families. When you see a 15 year-old boy lose his life, it hits home,” said Walsh, referring to the shooting death of Xhavier Rico, who was killed on Mt. Pleasant Street on July 2.

“It’s been a very trying week that led into the 4th of July weekend. There were several acts of violence. I think we experienced 7 homicides within 7 days, 5 by means of firearm and 2 were stabbings. Through that all I am here to tell you that the community really did help us,” said Gross. “I can’t thank the community enough for stepping forward. Two homicides were solved immediately with help from a community.”

He added that “the neighborhoods of Boston are not desensitized to violence.”

“They did their part in helping the police arrest dangerous persons and helped to facilitate the investigations that are still ongoing. This is the type of teamwork we need going forward,” he said.

“What we experienced here in one week is what other major metropolises experience in one day. My message of hope is that we continue to work together to be successful in holding violent persons accountable and saving lives.”

Walsh thanked Gross for his work and called the city’s efforts to control violence a “coordinated approach.”

“We’re leading with a coordinated focus on outreach, prevention and services. This weekend, our street worker SOAR teams were out there in the neighborhoods with our councilors on the neighborhood trauma teams. All of our community partners are out working hard in the City of Boston and I want to thank them for that. They are definitely having a positive impact and we believe they’ve prevented a lot more further violence on the city streets.”

He urged residents concerned about violence in their neighborhoods to reach out to the city’s neighborhood trauma teams.

“People have options, your lives are valued, and our city wants to help you,” added Walsh. “Violence will never be accepted as normal in Boston. We cannot rest until we eliminate it from our city and we have not wavered on that belief. We’re going to continue working at the root cause to keep young people engaged with as many opportunities as possible.”

The July Fourth holiday—always noisy and smoke-filled in parts of Boston due to illegal fireworks— was even worse this year, Walsh acknowledged. Boston Fire Commissioner Jack Dempsey told the mayor that there were “several little fires” in the city, although he “couldn’t confirm that they were a result of fireworks.”

“We received so many calls on it over the weekend that, quite honestly, it almost overloaded our system,” said Walsh. “There were a lot of fireworks regardless of the calls of people asking others to not shoot them off. It’s a big inconvenience for senior citizens, children, babies, folks experiencing PTSD, and pets. Our housing stock in Boston is old. If shooting off fireworks could cause fires and problems, we’re going to be out investigating and confiscating fireworks.”

The Mayor advised parents to check their basements for illegal fireworks hidden by children and teens.

“That’s dangerous. They could explode,” he said.

“We’re asking people as we move forward here in the next couple of days to continue to call 911 if you hear fireworks being set off,” said Walsh. “The police are out there.”

Walsh listed updated covid-19 numbers in the city, noting that the number of positive cases in Boston has increased by 22 from yesterday, totaling 13,578 confirmed cases. There have been 9,568 full recoveries and 710 deaths attributed, although there were no new deaths in the city reported since Monday.

Gov. Baker’s Phase 3 re-opening plan authorized gyms, museums and movie theatres in Massachusetts to reopen on Monday, with limits on gatherings lifted to 25 indoors and 100 outdoors. Boston and Somerville, however, were exempt from that timeframe, choosing to begin Phase 3 re-opening efforts on July 13, a week later.

"Boston is unique in population, density, and the size of our commercial, hospitality and other sectors. Since the Commonwealth began a phased reopening, we have been developing additional guidelines and licensing measures where appropriate to ensure that we keep our residents safe and healthy," Walsh said.

“"These precautionary methods take time to implement, as well as tracking and tracing the prevalence of COVID-19 among our residents. Another week will allow us to do the work needed to prepare for Phase 3 and be comfortable moving forward."

“One of the things we’re able to do with extra time is develop very detailed guidelines in multiple languages,” Walsh said. “We’re doing that for indoor fitness, museums and cultural spaces, and outdoor events. We’ll be hosting workshops online and posting materials by the end of the week,” he said. “Taking extra time also allows for us to continue addressing racial inequalities in the health and economic impacts of the virus.”

The purpose of the City’s Relief & Resiliency Funds, said Walsh, are aimed at three specific crises that the city’s facing-- the covid-19 public health pandemic, economic impacts, and the impacts of systemic racism. Funding, he said, is also part of a “broader strategy” to ramp-up covid testing, assist families with rent payments, provide services to seniors, and help small businesses reopen and recover.

“These funds are emergency responses to a life-threatening situation and I am proud of how our city has come together” he said.

The Mayor said that Bostonians still need to wear their masks and practice social distancing.

“If you are outside and not wearing a mask in a public place you are sending a message to others that certain areas are not accessible to them for mental health breaks or a walk,” said Walsh. “Think about the impact you’re having… this is not the time for us to let up here in Boston or Massachusetts in terms of individual and governmental safety measures. I’m asking you to please follow the guidelines and look out for the most vulnerable.”