As hundreds filed in for his wake two miles away, a sidewalk memorial for Jonathan “JoJo” Dos Santos in a residential area on Dorchester’s Washington Street marked the spot where two teens allegedly gunned down the 16-year-old while he was riding his bike one week earlier.
Stuffed animals, hand-written tributes, and a sea of candles surrounded a utility pole in the area prosecutors say 16-year-old Dushawn Taylor-Gennis and 14-year-old Raeshawn Moody ambushed and killed Dos Santos in broad daylight just hours after Dos Santos was honored for his academic achievements at McKinley Preparatory High School.
“It’s heartbreaking when you lose a child,” said Patricia Charles, 64, who stopped by the memorial. She said she didn’t know Dos Santos personally, but knew of his reputation as a good sports player, and pointed to his family’s house which is less than a block from where the high school freshman was killed.
She talked about raising four of her own children in the neighborhood, and the pressures kids face in a city where officials say 45 gangs are active.
“It’s not just the two of them, believe me,” Charles said of the teenagers suspected in Dos Santos’ death. She said many teens joining gangs must prove themselves by committing violent acts to appear strong and feared on the street, and those acts are incited by a larger group that dictates the violence.
Charles walked to Dos Santos’ wake at St. Peter’s Church on Bowdoin Street, where a line that snaked down the street in front of the church.
A solemn crowd waited to pay tribute to Dos Santos. Teenagers congregated around the grounds and on its front steps, some silent in contemplation, and many wearing buttons emblazoned with “Peace for JoJo” and the teen’s photo. Across the street, shop owners and customers from a smattering of small businesses watched the specter of Dos Santos’ wake, and the massive outpouring of mourners.
Scattered among the mourners were men wearing black shirts with “Outreach Worker” printed on the back. Shawn Webb, the director of Boston’s Streetworker Program, watched the crowd as he oversaw the 20 outreach workers he said were keeping peace at the site.
Although he described Dos Santos’ wake as “relatively calm,” Webb said that within the two hours of the event’s start, his outreach workers had mediated about 25 disputes, due to the “cross section of gang-affiliated people and gang members who had a relationship with [Dos Santos].” He said he didn’t know whether Dos Santos himself was in a gang.
Elise Santiago, 17, said she was good friends with Dos Santos.
“He had a great sense of humor,” she said. She, Dos Santos, and other friends often hung out at the South Shore Plaza, CambridgeSide Galleria, and Dave & Busters, where Dos Santos, who Santiago described as “looking 13,” tried to pass himself off as an 18-year-old so he and his friends could stay and play video games later into the night.
Dos Santos’ murder shocked her, given the quiet of his neighborhood, a place she said the family chose to escape violence elsewhere.
“The family moved there for safety, to raise their kids,” Santiago said. “Then he was killed.”
If you knew Jonathan Dos Santos, we invite you to share memories of him below, or on his profile page.