As hundreds of mourners sat in Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester yesterday morning for the funeral of shooting victim Andre Stoner, word spread through the church that Stoner’s cousin had been found hours earlier in a nearby elementary school parking lot, dead of a gunshot wound to the head.
Now the congregation in this neighborhood beset by crime had two victims to mourn. Relatives screamed and ran toward the back of the church, confused mourners ducked into their seats, and white-gloved ushers tried to bring the chaos under control, but Stoner’s funeral had already been overtaken by a new round of grief for Nicholas Copeland, 20.
“We started worrying about him last night, because he was nowhere to be found, and when he didn’t show up for the funeral, we knew something was wrong,” said John DePina, a cousin of both victims, as he stood outside the church on Nightingale Street in Dorchester.
DePina, a pallbearer, helped carry Stoner’s oak-colored casket out of the church. Stoner, 28, was shot Oct. 17 while standing near the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue and Esmond Street in Dorchester. No arrests have been made in the case.
While mourners prepared for Stoner’s funeral, donning purple shirts, black suits, and lapel buttons with Stoner’s picture, a resident living near John Marshall Elementary School in Dorchester called police to report that a lifeless man was slumped in the driver’s seat of a dark green sedan parked in the school’s back parking lot, just off Dakota Street.
Soon, more than a dozen police cruisers were on the scene. At a time when the Marshall school playground is usually abuzz with playful children, uniformed and plainclothes police officers combed the grassy playground looking for bullet shell casings and other evidence and scrutinized the asphalt around the car still containing Copeland’s body. Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis visited the scene.
No arrests have been made, and police declined to release more details about the case. But a woman who lives next to the parking lot said she noticed the car last night at about 11 p.m. because the engine was revving.
The woman said that she left her house for almost an hour and that when she returned home, the green sedan was still revving.
“At that point, I thought about calling the police, but I decided to mind my business,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be published out of fear of retaliation. “I should have called.”
Then the woman said she had to leave for Stoner’s funeral. She had not yet learned that the victim in the green sedan, parked about 200 feet from her front door, was Stoner’s cousin.
By midafternoon yesterday, the car had been towed from the parking lot, several small orange cones marking evidence on the asphalt had been lifted, and police had left. Parents in minivans and on foot filled the lot, picking up their children.
“This is horrible; our homes are in a war zone,” said Carrie Golden, on her way to pick up her two children from the school.
“After I found out about this, I asked for a transfer for my children to attend another school,” Golden said. “We just had a shooting here a couple of months ago.”
Last May, a pair of alleged gang members led police on a foot chase that ended in a shoot-out in front of the Marshall School.
The gunfight occurred in the evening, and the school was empty. One officer was hit in the chest by a bullet but survived.
Deputy Superintendent Thomas Lee said police would schedule additional patrols in the area, especially when school is in session.
“We’re obviously concerned when anything happens near a school,” he said.
Copeland worked at Walgreens drugstore on Bowdoin Street in Dorchester and had attended Salem State College, DePina said.
“He’s not a kid that anyone would consider would be in this situation,” he said.