The family of a great-grandmother fatally shot outside her Dorchester home Saturday evening demanded her killer face swift justice as they mourned the tragic loss of a woman described as a revered matriarch and beloved pillar in the community.
Delois Brown, 73, died after a suspect sprayed the front of her home at 17-19 Olney St. in a hail of gunfire, striking her in the chest as she sat outside, said her daughter, Shirley Brown.
“Someone took her life for no reason,” she said in an interview outside her mother’s home Sunday. “She did not have to go like this.”
Another resident of the multi-family home, Linda Prater, 35, said her 3-year-old daughter was playing on the porch when the shooting happened.
“ ‘They shot Grandma,’ ” the little girl told her, Prater said, using a term of endearment for Brown as she wiped tears from her eyes. “It’s just very upsetting.”
Delois Brown and her daughter had been among a group of family and neighbors on the porch when the shots shattered what had been an idyllic, warm April day.
The Brown family had been planning a cookout for Sunday. Instead, the day was one for throngs of mourners to come to the home to pay their respects, including Acting Mayor Kim Janey and Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
Janey said she wanted to offer her support to Brown’s family.
“We need to do everything we can to bring about peace,” she said in brief remarks to reporters.
Boston police responded to 19 Olney St. shortly before 6 p.m., where they found Brown, who had been shot. She was later pronounced dead at a hospital, police said.
The bold shooting angered city leaders who responded to the scene.
“It is outrageous and heartbreaking that a woman in her 70s can’t sit on her porch and enjoy a warm evening without this being the end result,” said Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long.
Delois Brown was not the intended target of the shooting, Long said Saturday night. There had been no arrests as of Sunday.
Just before 6 p.m. Sunday, about 100 people gathered in the place where Brown died 24 hours before. They bowed their heads in prayer and released blue and silver balloons into the gray evening sky. A candlelight vigil followed,.
Investigators are working around the clock to hold whomever killed Brown accountable, according to Rollins, while also supporting a devastated family and community.
“We are going to do everything we can to find this person, and hold them accountable,” Rollins said in an interview Sunday.
Boston police urge anyone with information to contact homicide detectives at 617-343-4470. “Our members are dedicated to finding and holding the responsible parties accountable,” the union representing detectives tweeted Sunday. “There will be justice.”
For Brown’s family and neighbors, her death was met with shocking sadness over another life lost to gun violence. Brown was the city’s 10th homicide victim of the year, police said.
Brown, a retired housekeeper at Newbury Junior College in Brookline, was a cornerstone of the neighborhood, her family and friends said. She watched out for her neighbors, doted on her 15 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, and was a gentle, supportive presence in the lives of those around her.
“She was and is still the best person I know,” Shirley Brown said of her mother. “I love her so much.”
She was “Gigi” and “Grandma” to local children, and affectionately called “Ms. Brown” by others.
Candace Ayoung and her husband, Maxwell, live across the street from Brown’s home.
“She was my neighbor, my confidante, and my support system,” said Ayoung, who knew Brown for 14 years. “Every family has a matriarch, and she was that.”
No one could have imagined her tragic end.
Shirley Brown said a suspect, wearing a mask, sunglasses, and dressed all in black, approached and opened fire as she and her mother sat on the porch with other residents.
On Sunday, she sat in a chair on the same porch. She stood and pointed out the holes left by gunfire, and marked by police with measurement tape.
As shots rang out, Delois Brown tried to get out of the way, her daughter said. But one bullet struck her mother, Brown said, pressing her finger into the center of a reporter’s chest to mark the spot.
The suspect ran from the scene, Shirley Brown said. She described the final moments of her mother’s life as she lay on the sidewalk.
“We saw her take her last breaths,” she said. “Before the ambulance arrived, she was already gone.”
Among the children who witnessed the shooting, officials said, was Shirley Brown’s 8-year-old granddaughter.
“She is traumatized,” Shirley Brown said.
As she spoke, Brown paused to receive hugs and kisses from visitors. Some brought food, others candles or balloons for a memorial on the sidewalk.
“I feel love; I feel appreciated,” Shirley Brown said of the support.
Shirley Brown was hugged by Janey, and a short time later, they joined a group of clergy. They formed a small circle and prayed together on the sidewalk.
Janey, the acting mayor for less than a month, said violence is all too common in some areas of Boston.
“It is a scene that is all too familiar to certain neighborhoods in my city,” Janey told reporters. “This is traumatic to the family.”
Rollins said support services are being made available to the family and residents who experienced the trauma of the shooting. No one, particularly children, should be witnesses to a murder, she said.
She compared Saturday’s shooting to the 2019 shooting death of 74-year-old Eleanor Maloney in Mattapan, and the killing of Alissa King, 17, last year in Dorchester.
“They all hurt,” she said of past violence. “This one just really hurts.”
Local clergy urged the city to support residents affected by gun violence.
“In the present context of our city, tragedies such as this drive home the importance of effective policing, which focuses on prevention and targeted fair enforcement,” said Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, pastor of the Azusa Christian Community in Dorchester, shortly after the shooting Saturday.
“This city has to come together. That needs to be the priority, not gratuitous criticism that is not constructive of law enforcement, which has an extremely difficult job. This tragedy is something that should force political and religious leaders to be much more vigilant in how we address violence in our poorest communities,” he said.
The Rev. William Dickerson of Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester said residents must also work to stop gun violence.
“We want to do what we can individually and collectively to curtail the violence and eliminate it eventually,” Dickerson said. “Some people lack regard for human life. I pray the family gets justice and closure in this situation.”
Brown’s murder has left a raw wound for those who loved her.
Just a few days ago, Brown had crossed the street, and sat on Ayoung’s porch steps. Seated near a small metal “Welcome Friends” sign, Brown praised the bright yellow flowers in a bed next to the house.
The flowers reminded Brown of the spring blossoms her own mother used to grow, Candace Ayoung said.
Maxwell Ayoung, on Saturday, had just brought Brown home from a trip to pick up medication two hours before the shooting.
Their last exchange was the stuff of daily grace.
“ ‘Mr. Max, thank you,’ ” Maxwell Ayoung recalled her saying. He said he replied: “ ‘You’re welcome, Ms. Brown.’ ”
On Sunday, the couple paid a personal tribute to her.
Maxwell Ayoung walked out his front door, down the same steps where his neighbor had sat. He cut some of those flowers, put them in a vase, and added them to the sidewalk memorial.
“She was my friend,” Maxwell Ayoung said. “She was my neighbor. This really hurts.”
Jessica Rinaldi and Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Globe staff and correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.