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Calls to reject hate at Winthrop tree planting to commemorate victims of racist rampage

Ray Green speaks during a ceremony Sunday at Shirley Street and Veterans Road in Winthrop, after which two trees were planted in honor of his brother, David Green, and Ramona Cooper. The two were fatally shot one year ago during a racist rampage.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

WINTHROP — Ray Green shoveled soil around a young October Glory maple tree a few steps from where his brother, David Green, was shot and killed in a white supremacist terrorist’s rampage one year ago.

Moments after town workers packed the soil around the tree, Green placed a plaque honoring his brother, a life-long Winthrop resident and retired Massachusetts state trooper, into the fresh soil before planting a small American flag beside it.

“This brought back a lot of memories,” Green said after planting the tree on Sunday morning.

A hundred or so feet down Shirley Street another maple, planted minutes before to commemorate the shooting’s other victim, Ramona Cooper, an Air Force veteran who worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs, rustled in the breeze under blue skies.

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Earlier, local officials remembered Cooper and Green, two Black residents who were shot to death on June 26, 2021, in an attack by a white supremacist that stunned the quiet beachside town.

Public officials spoke about the town’s resilience as well as the continued need to stand up to hate in a ceremony that drew dozens of residents.

This October Glory maple tree was planted in honor of David Green , who was killed on June 26, 2021, by a white supremacist who went on a shooting rampage in Winthrop.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

State Senator Lydia Edwards told the crowd gathered in a parking lot at the intersection of Shirley Street and Veterans Road that Cooper’s background as a Black woman and a veteran reminded her of her mother and Green’s small town upbringing of her own. The violence of a year ago was a shocking reminder to African Americans that “any one of us could have been on the other side of that gun,” she said.

Edwards said that Winthrop had been called to be an example of a community that stands up to hate.

When people pass the maples and “experience their shade and experience their peace, we will remember the individuals, we will mourn for the dead, but we’re going to fight with love for the living,” she said.

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State Senator Lydia Edwards speaks during a program in Winthrop in honor of Ramona Cooper and David Green. The two were fatally shot one year ago. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The family of Ramona Cooper, who live out of state, sent a statement written by her son, Gary Cooper, who said the year since his mother’s violent death has been hard.

But they have been heartened by the support of town officials and community members, he wrote.

“I see why my mom picked this beautiful community to live in, not only for the beautiful view, but the community itself,” Gary Cooper said in the statement, which was read aloud by Johnnie Bentley, a member of the town’s Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations Commission.

The solemn mood of Sunday morning was a sharp contrast to the terror and chaos that reigned on the afternoon of June 26 , 2021, when 28-year-old Winthrop resident Nathan Allen, armed with two guns, crashed a stolen truck into a house along Shirley Street before making his way down the street on foot. He went past several white people before gunning down Cooper, 60, in the middle of the street.

The gunman shot and killed Green, 68, minutes later in an alley off Shirley Street. Green left his house upon hearing the commotion and tried to disarm the shooter, police said.

Green’s actions “epitomized the exceptional bravery, disregard for his own safety in the face of grave danger, and an embrace, even after retirement, of his role as a community guardian,” State Police Colonel Chris Mason said Sunday.

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State Police posthumously awarded Green the Massachusetts State Police Medal of Honor for his “courageous actions” last year at their Framingham headquarters on Wednesday, State Police spokesman David Procopio said in a statement.

Winthrop Police Sergeant Nicholas Bettano arrived moments after Green was killed and shot the gunman at the corner of Shirley Street and Veterans Road. Allen died later at the hospital.

Investigators later found white supremacist, epithet-filled screeds in Allen’s written notebooks in which he praised racism and called for the murder of Black and Jewish people.

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said Sunday’s turnout of Winthrop residents, who raised money to pay for the trees, showed the community’s resilience.

“When an entire community of people stand together and say that they stand against hate and say that they honor the memories of those who have gone before us, there is tremendous power in that,” he said.

Kim Carrillo, who attended the ceremony, came nearly face to face with the shooter last year when she ran out of her house after seeing Cooper on the ground. She stood feet away shaking in fear as Bettano and the shooter traded fire, she said.

Kim Carrillo, who knew David Green, tells Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden about the June 26, 2021, scene when Green and Ramona Cooper were fatally shot in Winthrop. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

“That memory will always, always be in my head,” she said by telephone after the ceremony. Carrillo finds herself constantly on alert whenever she leaves the house now.

She called Sunday’s ceremony “beautiful” and said that the maples are a reminder of Green and Cooper’s deaths but also that love and happiness exist in the world despite horrible tragedy.

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Ray Green, in his remarks, said the ceremony reassured him that memories of Cooper and his brother will live on.

“I was afraid that what he did will be forgotten,” Ray Green said of his brother. “I don’t think it will be.”

After a speaking program at Shirley Street and Veterans Road in Winthrop, a tree is planted in honor of Ramona Cooper, who was shot a year ago during a racist rampage. A tree was planted down the street for David Green, who was also fatally shot. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Alexander Thompson can be reached at alexander.thompson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AlMThompson