Last February, Brandon John joined more than 100 students outside his Roxbury high school to protest the ouster of his headmaster.
He shivered in the 27-degree temperatures, a small sacrifice for a principal who had just been arrested for credit card fraud but was adored by John nevertheless.
“He’s a great person,” said John, then a 17-year-old junior at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. “He kept me out of trouble.”
On Jan. 9, nearly a year after that protest, John was found shot to death outside a Roslindale house. A neighbor who found him and tried to revive him said he had at least five gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Police have not released any details about a motive or suspects.
On Monday, as students learned of his death, they were plunged into mourning and disbelief. “Everyone is saying the same thing: ‘Not Brandon,’ ” said one of John’s friends, who joined half a dozen others Monday afternoon outside the Rowe Street house where his body was discovered. “This was not supposed to happen to him.” John did not live on Rowe Street, but he lived in Roslindale, his friends said.
None of the friends would give their names. They described Brandon as a popular student who worked at a Stop & Shop grocery store, and dreamed of going to college. He was one of four siblings, they said. John’s family could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for Boston public schools declined to comment on John.
The killing occurred just after 11 p.m. on Rowe Street, a busy thruway off Cummins Highway where most neighbors own their houses and keep their lawns neatly mowed.
LeRoi Rodriguez, a 51-year-old lieutenant with the Boston Fire Department, said he was awakened by gunfire, a noise he is familiar with because he has fired guns at a shooting range. But the sharp, staccato noise he heard that night was different. It sounded as though at least two dozen bullets had been fired in just a few seconds.
“I’ve never heard gunfire like that,” Rodriguez said. When he ran outside, he found a young man lying on his back; his pupils were dilated, and he was not breathing. Rodriguez’s 23-year-old son looked outside the window in time to see three men run down Rowe Street toward Seymour Street.
As Rodriguez gave John chest compressions, he looked toward Seymour Street and saw a dark vehicle that looked like a Chevy Impala or Camaro idling in the intersection. The car quickly took off, he said.
John was the second person killed in the city in 2014.
Since Thursday, John’s friends have been coming to Rowe Street to lay candles, flowers and teddy bears. One of them approached Rodriguez and asked him if anyone had seen a Chevy the night of the killing. Rodriguez told him yes.
“ ‘I knew it,’ ” the friend said, according to Rodriguez. The friend then walked away.
Rodriguez said he had never seen John on his street before that night. Police have not said what kind of weapon was used in the killing.
Rodriguez said the neighborhood plans to hold a meeting about the killing. He said he would like to attend John’s funeral. “Just to show his parents that we as a community do care about the children here,” Rodriguez said, “even when we don’t know them.”