City leaders grapple with youth gun violence following fatal shooting of 13-year-old boy

NORWOOD, Mass. — At the Coakley Middle School, they are addressing grief this week -- after the fatal shooting last weekend of 13-year-old Tyler Lawrence.

Lawrence, a sixth grader at the school, was gunned down in Mattapan while taking a walk near his grandmother’s house.

“I think we’re all struggling to wrap our heads around the idea of a middle school student dying in this way,” said Ruth Zakarin, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. “It’s profoundly upsetting. And there are just so many layers of trauma to this incident.”

It is, sadly, one of many violent incidents last month.

“We ended January with over fifty mass shootings in this country,” Zakarin said. “There’s also gun violence that’s happening in Massachusetts communities all the time. We had the shooting at the mall in Holyoke. We had a shooting yesterday also at a retail location, also in the afternoon, at a Dollar Store in Brockton. And those are not the only fatal shootings that have happened in Massachusetts in January.”

Nationally, young people are killed and injured by violence every day.

Youth.gov estimated a dozen Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 are victims of homicide every day. Another 1,400 are injured through violence. Overall, homicide is now the third leading cause of death among U.S. youth.

“Statistics only tell part of the story,” Zakarin said. “They don’t really capture the level of trauma that the violence causes.”

Zakarin said providing safe places for kids to go -- and trusted adults they can talk to, is part of the answer to reducing gun violence.

“It’s really about building a safety net for all young people, in every zip code,” she said. “So that they have a place to turn to when they are feeling threatened or unsafe.”

Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said the department can’t tackle the issue of youth gun violence alone.

“We’re willing to work with schools... we’re willing to work with parents... we’re willing to work with anyone in the community to help address it,” Cox said. “We’re looking to partner with all comers, anyone that might have an impact on how we might stem this. Not just about the crime but how it starts in the first place.”

Of course, there was youth gun violence before the pandemic. But some suggest Covid created conditions for it to thrive.

“We know this is a very difficult time for many of our young people coming out of the pandemic, where their lives were uprooted in so many different ways,” said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. “And we’re still seeing the impacts very much. We hear across the country that, from a mental health perspective, everyone is still struggling and dealing with this -- particularly our young people.”

Police have made no arrests in the killing of Lawrence. The department is hopeful those with information will come forward.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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