A woman solemnly spoke to the small crowd gathered in a Chestnut Hill parking lot early Sunday morning.
“I never would have envisioned that this spot, one that people pass by without a second glance, would have so much significance,” she said according to a copy of her prepared remarks. “But here we are.”
Exactly a year earlier, her brother, Juston Root, 41, was fatally shot by police in a burst of 31 rounds from close range as he lay bleeding in a landscaping strip, she said.
On Sunday, Root’s family held a vigil as they continue to call for an independent investigation into the police officers’ response.
Root, who had long battled mental illness, led police on a car chase to Brookline after exhibiting what security guards and police thought was a gun at Brigham and Women’s Hospital on Feb. 7, 2020. He was shot at least once by police at the hospital and then again after he crashed in Brookline and stumbled out of his car. Police found two paintball guns in his car and a BB gun on or near his body, according to a report from Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey.
The Norfolk district attorney cleared the officers involved in the shooting in March. But in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in August, Root’s family cited body camera footage they say shows officers charging and killing an injured, unarmed man while he was on the ground, struggling to breathe.
The family is petitioning Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for an independent investigation into his death and has gathered more than 8,700 signatures.
“As we stand here today, 12 months later, there has been no justice for Juston,” his sister, Jennifer Root Bannon, told the crowd, according to the prepared copy of her remarks. “He was executed here in this spot and I will not allow it to go unchecked. We all deserve to know the truth — and let me be clear: The truth of what happened here has not been told yet.”
In the year since his death, the nation has been roiled by other fatal encounters with police — including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — and added multitudes to the family’s calls for change.
Bannon said she has gone from knowing little about police use-of-force investigations to becoming an activist.
“I definitely feel that there is a movement and it’s not going away,” Bannon said in a phone interview after the vigil. “That gives me hope that we can get to a place where there can be real change and accountability.”
The family installed a plaque at the site, which included the quote: “Those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day.” The family also released balloons, lit electric candles, and held a moment of silence before a handful of speakers shared thoughts about Root and his death.
The ceremony did not exactly bring healing, Root’s father said in a phone interview afterward, or hope that there will be enough reform to prevent a similar tragedy. Still, he said, they must tell his story and call for change.
“Hope or no hope, it must be done,” Evan Root said. “It must be put out there whether there’s hope or not because it’s the decent thing to do, and Juston was for that in his life, too.”
Pat Greenhouse of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with more precise information about what happened on Feb. 7, 2020.
Lucas Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.