In the basement members’ lounge of the American Legion Old Dorchester Post 65 a group of Irish immigrant laborers regularly clink glasses after a long day. But last night they had something else to toast: closure.
“It’s so senseless,’’ said a patron, Erin.
More than drinking buddies, Erin and others speaking in thick Irish brogues - who asked not to have their full names published - were the surrogate family of Ciaran “Kiwi’’ Conneely, 36, a mild-mannered laborer from the Aran Islands, off Ireland’s west coast, who was gunned down in an attempted robbery near Adams Corner in October.
Yesterday, John Graham, 17, of Dorchester, was charged with Conneely’s murder. Graham was already in custody for allegedly shooting two men in another attempted robbery on Monsignor Patrick J. Lydon Way in Dorchester three weeks later on Oct. 30.
The victims in the second robbery survived, and identified Graham as their assailant, according to a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
According to the official, bullets taken out of those victims matched what killed Conneely.
Graham was held on charges of armed assault with intent to rob and intent to murder, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of a firearm from the second robbery while police built the Conneely case. No arraignment date has been scheduled.
Several witnesses testified before a Suffolk County grand jury and made statements against Graham, who the official said had been boasting about shooting Conneely.
The shooting set off a frenzy of fear in what many consider one of the safest neighborhoods in Dorchester, marked by its population of blue-collar workers, police officers, and firefighters. Conneely was the first Irish immigrant killed in Boston in at least 16 years.
“We were afraid to walk home alone,’’ Erin said. “Everyone would leave together or take taxis.’’
For more than a decade, the American Legion group would gather for holidays, opening their homes to one another and sharing whatever they had while nearly all of their family members remained in Ireland.
“Kiwi was invited to everyone’s house,’’ Erin said. “He was always welcome. We just miss him so much.’’
One of the Old Post patrons, Tommy, said he was glad to see justice done in the case, but feared for the safety of his friends. “I feel like if something doesn’t change, it’s going to happen again,’’ he said.
Conneely was a large man, according to one friend, Muldoon, but was gentile and never raised his voice.
“You could not make the man angry,’’ Muldoon said. “And he played the part of a fool very well, but he was no fool. He was a very smart man, educated.’’
The patrons are angry with Graham. Muldoon said they feel like one of their own brothers was killed.
“That kid doesn’t realize the harm he did to a lot of people,’’ said Muldoon. “He couldn’t possibly realize, or he wouldn’t have done it.’’