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Mom: Somebody saw something

Mom: Somebody saw something

By John Zaremba  |   Saturday, July 2, 2011  | |  Local Coverage
AJ's Mother

Photo by Christopher Evans

The shaken, sobbing mother of a little boy shot as he played in a Dorchester park has broken her silence, tearing herself away from her 4-year-old son’s hospital bed long enough to issue an emotional appeal to witnesses to help cops find the “cowards” who turned a playground “into a war zone.”

“I’m asking, as a parent, to put yourself in my shoes,” said the mother, who agreed to be photographed but declined to identify herself yesterday during a press conference at Boston police headquarters.

“I know every one of you felt some type of emotion for my son, so I’m asking if anyone, no matter how small or unimportant you think that information is, can you please call the Boston Police Department,” the tearful mom said. “We just know that somebody saw something.”

The mother and her son, who she identified only by his nickname, “A.J.,” were among a crowd of hundreds at Harambee Park about 9:20 p.m. on a warm summer night Monday, including suspected gang members on foot and riding dirt bikes. Police said witnesses reported seeing two suspects open fire and run away. A stray bullet struck the boy in the back.

“Something like this shouldn’t happen at a playground that we built for our kids — not those cowards who turned it into a war zone,” the mom said.

A.J. was rushed to Boston Medical Center, where he has undergone at least two surgeries. His mother, who has spent the past week at his bedside, said she has been unable to speak to her son. She declined to describe his current medical condition. Police say the boy is stable and his injuries are now non-life-threatening.

“A.J. has a long road ahead of him,” said his mother, who was accompanied by the boy’s godmother. “He’s a big boy, thank God for that.”

She said her son is “very energetic, very smart,” and has been a “protector” of his younger cousins.

Police swarmed the area around the park in the hours and days after the shooting, conducting additional patrols near the playground and handing out fliers to advertise an anonymous tip line.

The shooting also led police Commissioner Edward F. Davis and Mayor Thomas M. Menino to call for a crackdown on unregistered motor bikes, reportedly plentiful in the park on the night the boy was shot. Police are seeking two witnesses who were seen fleeing on motor bikes when officers responded to the scene.

The investigation so far has produced “promising leads, but not enough to make an arrest,” Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said.

The heartfelt plea by A.J.’s mother before local reporters and camera crews “was a mutual decision made by investigators and the child’s mom,” she said. “We hope that her plea for information will appeal to someone who can help with that crucial tip.”

The mother said support from her neighbors has been overwhelming.

“I feel the love. I feel the love,” she said. “That’s why I’m asking, begging and pleading.

“(There were) too many people at the park,” for the suspects to remain free and unidentified, she said. “Somebody’s seen something. Somebody’s seen something.”

Police are promising to protect witnesses’ identities. They ask those with information to call detectives at 617-343-4470, or leave tips at 800-494-8477. Witnesses may also text the word “Tip” to 27463.

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