Students heading into Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston's Dorchester community Wednesday saw an increased police presence Wednesday morning, after a student was shot Tuesday on the school's grounds.
The 17-year-old suspect in the shooting, who is also a student, faced a judge Wednesday in juvenile court. The teen was held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing.
Tuesday's shooting sparked a lockdown at the school, anxiety in a community that's already been reeling from violence and calls for systemic change to address gun violence.
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The Boston Police Department responded to 60 Washington St. — the Burke School's address —for a report of a person shot at around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, superintendent of the Boston Police Bureau of Investigative Services Felipe Colon said during a news conference. Police found a teenage boy, who is a student at the school, with a gunshot wound.
Sources tell the NBC10 Boston Investigators that the teen was shot in the stomach.
The student was taken to the hospital, and as of Tuesday, was in stable condition, according to police.
"Shortly after the incident, a description of the suspect was broadcasted. Additional officers responding to the scene located an individual matching that description," Colon said. "That individual was positively ID'd as the suspect."
A search of the area led to the recovery of a gun, Colon said, who added that the investigation is ongoing.
The school was taken out of safe mode after several hours, allowing students to safely move around the school, according to Chief of Safety Services for Boston Public Schools Neva Coakley.
Police have not released details surrounding the circumstances of what led to the shooting, but encourage people who have information to contact investigators.
Family Member Demands Justice
The victim's aunt, who asked not to be identified, said she wants to see the suspect punished for the crime.
"He shouldn’t be protected because he’s a juvenile. He committed an adult crime and needs to be tried as an adult," she told NBC10 Boston.
She said the violence was unacceptable and that more needs to be done.
"No one's kid should go to school and be shot in a school, be stabbed in a school or harmed in a school. They need to step it up and make change."
Reaction and Calls for Change
“What happened today is not OK and it cannot be the responsibility of just our school department to address violence in our communities,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said in a news conference, while standing alongside other education and law enforcement officials who had a similar message in the wake of a shooting outside one of the city's "sacred spaces of learning."
Responding to criticism from parents who said they weren't notified fast enough, school officials said their safety protocols will be reviewed in the wake of the shooting.
"We are always going to strive to do better and make sure there is instantaneous communication once the facts are known," Wu said.
School Superintendent Mary Skipper added that, "What's important this morning is that our students and staff feel safe to be able to pass and go back to school."
Authorities have made several mentions of their concerns involving guns in the city in reaction to the incident.
"On Monday and Tuesday of this week alone, my office picked up five new cases involving illegal guns," Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden said in a statement to NBC10 Boston. "When you have students packing guns along with their school books it's perfectly clear how perilous this problem has become. I dearly hope this public crisis will get the societal attention it deserves."
Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty is now calling for Boston Public Schools to update its safety policy.
"We need to know what the policy is because right now the policy is principals are making the decisions of whether or not to call 911 or not. So is that based on swelling? Is that based on the amount of blood?”
He also said that BPS needs to repair a strained relationship with Boston police so incidents of violence, are more of a coordinated effort.
"There’s been a trend over the past couple of years where principals in particular won’t engage our police department and - unacceptable," he said.
Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox echoed the district attorney's sentiments.
"This is another example of how guns and young people don't mix at all," he said. "As a police department, we're going to work with our partners to do all we can to reduce the number of guns in the City of Boston."
Meanwhile, one woman, who did not want to be identified, described what it was like to hear the gunfire ring out, and watch the ordeal unfold on her company's surveillance video system.
"We saw it with our own eyes loading it," she said. "It is nerve-wracking -- are they coming back, or is there more that is going to go on? It is constant battle, and when you even hear a pop, you are ducking down, so it is just getting to a point where something needs to take place."
Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia, who was at the school Tuesday afternoon to help in the aftermath of the violence, said the incident highlights that more needs to be done at the school to ensure a safe and productive environment for its families.
"I’m hearing a lot of fear. You know, Imagine getting a phone call, or hearing about this on social media," she said.
Past Violence at Burke School
Just last month, a student was stabbed at Jeremiah E. Burke High School.
"The safety and security of our students and staff are the top priority for Boston Public Schools. Violence has no place in our school communities. BPS thanks the school staff and public safety officials who immediately responded to today’s incident at the Burke High School," the district said in a statement at the time.
Back in 2016, someone was killed and three other teens were hurt in a shooting near the high school. In 2013, Boston police found a gun inside a student's backpack.