Gabriel Clarke, the 13-year-old Roxbury boy who was shot in the stomach as he walked to church Friday evening, is in critical but stable condition today and is expected to recover, according to police and his pastor.
Shirley Clarke told the Globe Friday that her son was walking from their nearby home to his 7 p.m. choir rehearsal at the Berea Seventh Day Adventist Church on Seaver Street when the incident occurred. Police told her the shot was fired from a vehicle that pulled up next to Clarke as he walked down Humboldt Avenue, she said.
“I honestly believe this is nothing short of a miracle,” said the Rev. Nigel G. David Sr., the pastor at their church.
David said that while the bullet did not puncture any of Clarke’s major organs, the boy is “in a lot of pain.”
But he said, “They think he’ll make it.”
David said he rushed to the emergency room at Boston Medical Center when he first learned of the shooting.
“I didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” David said. “When I got there, Gabriel was in emergency surgery.... his mom was crying.”
Clarke’s mother, sister, and uncle held vigil as the surgery progressed. David said a “very helpful” hospital trauma counselor talked to them during the agonizing wait. Police dropped in every hour or so, he said, offering their sympathies and assuring Clarke’s family that they were making every effort to find the shooter.
Eventually, doctors emerged with good news: Clarke would be OK. David and Clarke’s family were “overwhelmed with relief,” he said.
Shirley Clarke, Gabriel’s mother, is upset and overwhelmed but “holding up well,” David said.
Police have not identified a suspect in the case but are actively investigating and asking that anyone with knowledge of the incident contact them, according to a spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department.
David described Clarke as an unfailingly helpful and friendly kid who often tried to get his friends to attend Sunday services at the church.
“He can be a little bit quiet, but he’s very friendly,” David said. “If something needs to be done, he’ll say, ‘Pastor, can I do it? Can I help?’ He’s been nothing but a blessing to me.”
Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said the city had reached out to the family to offer assistance.
“Any time there is a shooting or this type of incident in city, the mayor is very concerned, first and foremost for the victim and their family,” she said. “The mayor and his team are, along with the police department, aggressively looking at who may have done this and how.”
Joyce also reiterated Menino’s call for stricter gun control laws.
The shooting of Clarke, one of the city’s youngest victims of gun violence in recent memory, sparked outrage from community activists.
“This was just horrible,” said the Rev. Miniard Culpepper of the nearby Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. “It’s nonsensical, irrational, and insensitive.”
Culpepper said his parishioners felt “outrage and frustration,” especially since Clarke is known as a “good kid” who stayed out of trouble.
“Everyone is concerned because it was not just a 13-year-old kid, but a 13-year-old kid on his way to church with no involvement in any of the violence that has taken place in the past,” he said.
Culpepper called the incident a setback to successful anti-violence programs run by various neighborhood groups.
“We’ve had peace in that area for quite some time,” Culpepper said. “I think what happened is, after you had peace for so long, people become accustomed to it, they drop their guard and go about the normal way of doing things. Then you have a shooting like this and, once again, it causes everyone to stop and think about how it’s not as safe as you thought it was.”
Other community leaders called for swift justice.
“I hope that this gets solved quickly and we really show the community that there is law and order,” said Monalisa Smith, the founder of Boston antiviolence group Mothers For Justice and Equality. Her nephew, Eric Smith, was gunned down in 2010; his case remains unsolved.
Smith said she would offer her sympathy to Clarke’s family, but acknowledged that words offer little comfort.
“What can we say? There’s no words,” she said. “You don’t know where to start. All you can do is just embrace them and show them that you are there when they need you.”
The Humboldt Avenue area has been the scene of other shootings involving youth, including one of the city’s most notorious shooting deaths. In August 1988, 12-year-old Darlene Tiffany Moore was killed as she sat on a mailbox on Humboldt, caught in the crossfire of a gang-related shootout. The case provoked national outrage.
The Friday shooting is also not far from the Academy Homes housing development, where 9-year-old Jermaine Goffigan was shot and killed on Halloween night in 1994.
In the cases of both Moore and Goffigan, the men originally imprisoned for the crimes were later freed when new evidence emerged exonerating them.
In 2002, in a park off of Blue Hill Avenue, not far from Humboldt, that is named for Goffigan, 10-year-old Trina Persad was shot in the face with a shotgun. Prosecutors said the bullet was fired by then-18-year-old Joseph Cousin, and was intended for a rival gang member.