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(NECN: Greg Wayland) - It was twenty years ago today an outrage that put Boston in the national spotlight. It was shocking and senseless. And at the heart of it was a lie that sent the city's race relations into a tailspin. Mission Hill. The neighborhood. Mission Church. The majestic catholic basilica. St. Alphonsus Street is in its shadow. So too was the shadowy little side street and some projects where a horror unfolded in darkness twenty years ago. The frantic 911 call is a nightmarish memory. Charles Stuart, manager of Boston’s upscale Kakas fur store, using the new technology of a cell phone, was calling for help and said he did not know where he was. He said a black gunman had forced his way into his car at a stoplight, robbed him, shot his seven-month pregnant wife in the head and him in the lower abdomen, then fled. Roxbury resident Keith Williams remembers that night well. Police calmly, skillfully located Charles Stuart's car and the dying mother-to-be who's infant would be born and die seventeen days later. The case captured national attention. The African American community was subject of a massive manhunt. “I knew it was going to be, because, for one thing, ah, it was already a high tension area for police and the neighborhood.” But it was all a lie. Stuart's brother fingered Charles Stuart himself as the shooter. “It was really angering the fact that someone could actually be that cold-hearted and kill your wife and your newborn -- your unborn baby.” Stuart fooled everyone -- apparently plotting to get his wife's insurance money. But in the interim, young men in Boston’s African American community were subject to a massive manhunt. Dickerson: “The young people were disrespected, very much so. They were strip-searched out in the public and whatnot.” Mission Hill resident Betty Commerford remembers standing with other women when police pulled up and accosted some young African American boys. Betty: “They frisked those boys and they told them to drop their pants, in front of us.” Keith: “I remember coming from the movie with my wife and kids and getting pulled over and having been held for a half an hour while they checked my plates and it was just a mess. It was total chaos.” The whole affair had a tawdry end. Three months later, Charles Stuart killed himself, leaping to his death from the mystic Tobin Bridge. In the interim, police had arrested a black man named Willy Bennett, further aggravating racial tensions. But Ray Flynn, who was Boston's mayor at the time, says the arrest was justified. Flynn: “And also the first people ever to say that Willy Bennett was involved were not the police. Not the district attorney, but Willy Bennett's family, Joey, his nephew, and his mother herself.” And Flynn still defends the police response. “Because the only information that they had to go on was that a black man was involved in the shooting and that was given to them by the only person who was a witness. And that, of course, was Chuck Stuart. So what else could they possibly do?” Keith: “But I know they were under a lot of pressure because it was nation wide. This went right over through the airwaves that -- and they had to react.” But some would still say...they over-reacted. Since the incident, the St. Alphonsus Street neighborhood has new housing and a new spirit. “We'd been struggling. But the neighborhood as a whole really pulled together. We organized neighborhood-housing services; we were working to change the housing stock.” And out of what happened here in this greatly transformed neighborhood twenty years ago has come some good. Farrow: “The neighborhood was always vibrant, exciting. It was always a neighborhood that had an awful lot going for it.” Mission Hill has always been a multi-racial neighborhood. And Mission Church was the scene of Sen. Ted Kennedy's funeral, attended by presidents and dignitaries and viewed worldwide. The city, too, began healing. “What came out of it was that the city was tested. Was challenged. The police, the district attorney, the mayor, the institutions were all challenged and we reached out to the black community.” And at Mission Hill's Tobin Community Center, they were marking the anniversary by showing a documentary on the episode and inviting black and white for a dialogue. Commerford: “In the process do some of the kinds of talking that we really weren't ready to do but I hope we're ready to do now.” Dickerson: “There has been some progress over the years as it relates to all of us dealing with the issue of race. But it sometimes seems like the big pink elephant is in the room that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about.” That horrible night twenty years ago started the conversation.