Before tragedy struck, Tyler Jacoby Lawrence was a child, deep in the normal throes of adolescence, two weeks removed, his nana says, from his first kiss.
The 13-year-old spent his weeks in Norwood with his mother, Remy, and much of his time on the weekends in Mattapan with his grandparents, Stanley and Carol Lawrence.
As the three tearfully recounted to me on Wednesday, they cannot imagine how he came to leave that house in Mattapan on Sunday morning, never to return home.
Tyler was murdered, the authorities say, right nearby, around 11:30.
The killing of anyone so young would be shocking. But it might be magnified in his case, because those who loved him had such a keen sense of the danger he faced as a young Black man in this world, and such a fierce desire to keep him safe. To guide him through.
The move from Roxbury to Norwood, at the height of the pandemic, had been all about exactly that.
“We moved because I was scared,” Remy Lawrence told me. “And my baby was growing up. And Tyler needed access to quality education that I didn’t have to doubt. . . . Perhaps during this pandemic I wouldn’t have to worry about whether his teachers would show up today. That’s why.”
Tyler loved, in no particular order, music, dancing, video games, and the Celtics. He had no closer friend than his grandfather. They were so close they often watched Celtics games together without physically being in the same place — Tyler would be in Norwood, Stanley in Mattapan — the two connected by phone, each offering his own color commentary.
Like many an adolescent, he was still figuring out the vagaries of peer relationships. While Remy had him involved in a host of activities — from basketball to a Saturday School providing academic enrichment for Black and brown boys — the truth is that he spent a lot of time by himself.
To support them, his mother has had to work — hard. Over time, Remy Lawrence has moved from an entry-level position at the State House to a supervisory role at Boston Health Care for the Homeless. Her professional advancement was supposed to be a way to do more for her son as he grew older. He had attended summer camp for the first time last summer — which he loved — and she had visions of the vacations they might start to take.
The Lawrence family has taken great exception to the idea — expressed by Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin C. Hayden — that Tyler was “targeted.”
That word, to his family, carries connotations of someone somehow caught up in wrongdoing, maybe someone who has managed to make dangerous enemies. In their view — which I share — it carries, however unintentionally, more than a whiff of stereotype.
It seems at odds with a tall, gangly introvert whose Mattapan world mostly involved walking to Burger King in Mattapan Square and back to his grandparents’ house.
The murder is unsolved, and its motive is unknown. But his family would like to make it clear that Tyler Lawrence was not mixed up in anything.
Stanley Lawrence said his family came to Boston from the West Indies in 1926, and have been contributing members of the community ever since — working for the state, working for the MBTA.
“We were trying to raise Tyler to be a hard-working man to raise his family the way the Lawrences before him did,” he said.
“People who live in the suburbs might look at that word “targeted” and think, ‘Oh, he’s just another one.’ But he isn’t just another one.”
That Sunday morning unspooled like most others. His mother was at home in Norwood and Tyler was with his grandparents. He left home around 11:20, telling his grandmother he’d be back with her in maybe 10 minutes.
His grandfather first got word — through a neighborhood alert on his phone — that there had been a shooting near his house. But he didn’t connect it with Tyler. Why would he?
Vague alarm began to set in a couple of hours later, when Tyler wasn’t returning phone calls. But everyone tried to stay calm. Remy began tracking her son’s phone and it was moving first to Tremont Street, then to Causeway Street. Though she didn’t know it then, it was in the hands of Boston police detectives.
She hopped in her car and began to chase the phone. She got as far as Causeway Street, where a Transit security guard helped her search North Station for her missing son.
Remy Lawrence got to her parents’ house just as two detectives did.
They had come to break unbearable, unimaginable news.
In a world of hurt and shock, Remy took to social media calling for #JusticeForTylerLawrence.
Eventually — around 4 a.m., via Facebook — a city official responded. Through her community contacts, she worked to set up a meeting with Mayor Michelle Wu.
Lawrence met with Wu on Wednesday, but steadfastly maintains that the city’s response has fallen woefully short.
“I had to implore — almost beg — her to come and see me and give me the confidence that the leaders of the city and the people she stands with wouldn’t leave any stone unturned for my baby,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she has a new professional calling now — justice for her son. If she has anything to say about it, Tyler Lawrence will not be the victim of just another quickly forgotten incident .
“I have to do the work of pursuing justice for Tyler,” she said. “The work of keeping his name alive. The work of getting people to understand that this is not typical — whatever they think typical is — of a family that lives in Mattapan or a young boy that gets shot down. This is not that.”
Meanwhile, a family struggles to come to terms with a world in which everywhere they turn there are reminders of a loss they will feel forever. Remy’s parents wonder if they should move. She wonders how she will cope.
“This is unexplainable,” she said between sobs. “This is gut-wrenching. How am I going to drive past Fremont Street every day?”