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Officer shot in Roxbury improving after surgery

Full recovery hoped for Moynihan; prayers offered; wounded bystander tells of shooting

Detective Christopher Hamilton and Officer Monica Hamilton knelt during a Palm Sunday Mass in Roxbury.PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

Boston police Officer John T. Moynihan was recovering from successful surgery to remove a bullet from his neck Sunday, two days after a felon with a history of shooting at police fired point-blank at the officer’s face, police said.

Moynihan was listed in stable and improving condition and expected to leave Boston Medical Center’s intensive care unit in the coming days, according to police.

“God bless, I think he’s going to make a full recovery. It’s remarkable,” Police Commissioner William B. Evans told a crowd gathered at the University of Massachusetts Boston for an interfaith Passover seder.

Two miles south of the hospital where Moynihan was recuperating, a bystander wounded in Friday’s crossfire was also recovering.


Vanessa Brown, 49, said she was almost home Friday night when her Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle had to stop because police vehicles were blocking Humboldt Avenue at Ruthven Street. Ahead, officers surrounded a car with its doors open.

John Moynihan.Boston Police Department

Unable to proceed, Brown and a companion waited for police to guide them. “The directions never came. The bullets came first,” she said.

“I heard a pop and I ducked. And then I heard a pop, pop, pop,” she said. “Had I been sitting straight, it would have went in my chest. It got my shoulder.”

The first gunshot she heard was probably the one that struck Moynihan’s right cheek, according to authorities’ description. The alleged shooter, Angelo West, 41, of Hyde Park was killed by police in the shootout that followed.

Moynihan, 34, was in surgery for several hours Sunday at BMC, where he was rushed after being shot.

On digital billboards in nine locations across Greater Boston on Sunday came the message, “Our thoughts are with Officer John Moynihan.”

That was also the message at a Palm Sunday Mass at St. Patrick Church in Roxbury, the closest Catholic church to the shooting scene. At the Mass, nearly half the congregation wore uniforms — from the Boston Police Department and departments including Newton, Needham, MBTA Transit police, MIT, and Nantucket, as well as the Boston Fire Department.


Evans and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese visited Moynihan following the Palm Sunday Mass that offered prayers for Moynihan.

“He’s a strong man, brave man, and I have all the faith in the world for him to pull through, and hopefully be back to work someday, real soon,” Evans said.

Vanessa Brown was shot in the shoulder while in her car Friday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

The Mass began with a solemn ceremony to bless the palms, said the Rev. Walter Waldron.

“I was stunned to see all those officers in uniform,” said Waldron, the pastor at St. Patrick’s. “It was very touching.”

St. Patrick’s is made up mostly of African-American parishioners, many of whom offered their own special prayers for the police, he said

“Some of the people got up and prayed for the police officers who protect our neighborhood,” Waldron said. “That’s a wonderful sign of strength.”

On Saturday, faith leaders, civil rights activists, and elected officials met with police and viewed surveillance video that they said clearly showed officers approaching West’s car without guns drawn and West shooting Moynihan without provocation.

But on Sunday, some people still questioned the police gang unit’s actions.

Members of the civil rights group Black Lives Matter Boston gathered behind closed doors in Fields Corner on Sunday afternoon to discuss the shooting. Some at the meeting said the police stop was a result of racial profiling, according to Joao DePina, an activist and the brother of Michael DePina, who was shot and killed in Dorchester last June. DePina, 36, is not affiliated with Black Lives Matter Boston and was escorted from the meeting after arguing that the discussion was unfairly critical of police.


Another person attending the meeting, who declined to give his name, told reporters that it focused on “building hope for the future” and proving “black lives really do matter.” When asked if the group was organizing any demonstrations, he said, “We’re always planning something.”

Friday’s shootout followed what Evans described as a “routine” stop of a car containing West and two other men, Dennis Wilson, 26, and Jonathan Aguasvivas, 22.

Members of the gang unit were investigating reports of gunfire in the area of Humboldt Avenue about 6:40 p.m. when they pulled over a car driven by West, who allegedly leaped from the car and fired at Moynihan as he approached the driver’s side, police said.

The shooting is still under investigation, Evans said.

Meanwhile, Brown — the woman who was shot as she waited for police to redirect traffic after West was stopped — has been saying prayers of thanks. The bullet that struck her passed through her right shoulder, which has a tattoo depicting two hands joined in prayer. Initially there was no pain.

“I felt a warm sensation and fluid coming down. And after that, I just realized it started burning,” she said. “I was telling my friend, ‘I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit!’ I didn’t notice the hole in the window then,” she said.


An ambulance took her to BMC, where she stayed overnight and was released Saturday afternoon. “I know my higher power was there protecting me,” she said. “I’m alive today, so I’m very blessed.”

The following is a video interview with Vanessa Brown:

Evan Allen of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Niko Emack-Bazelais, Melissa Hanson, and Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@globe.com.