Surrounded by paintings of Nelson Mandela, President Obama, and Martin Luther King Jr., 7-year-old Divan Silva cupped a gleaming badge in his hands, cameras flashing as officers crowned him police chief for a day.
About 40 officers welcomed the boy to a party thrown for him Sunday in Restaurante Cesaria, where they gave him a special citation, toys, and police memorabilia. Donning a lopsided, oversized police chief’s hat, Divan became an official member of the Boston Police Department, nearly a month after surviving a shooting on May 24.
“He likes to pretend he is a police officer,” said his mother, Dijanira DeAndrade.
Within the restaurant’s cobalt blue and yellow-painted walls, Divan danced to birthday music floating from a nearby table.
Though the restaurant, on Bowdoin Street, isn’t far from the site of the shooting, Divan beamed, a bright smile never leaving his face.
The boy had been pedaling down Bowdoin Street when a stray bullet entered his left buttock and punctured his thigh. In a surveillance video that captured the shooting, a man walked out of Rodriguez Barber Shop 2 to inspect the scene, before noticing Divan and walking back inside. Passersby watched the boy bleed on the ground for 50 seconds before his mother ran to his aid, said William Gross, Boston police superintendent in chief.
“[The idea] started with me when I saw that video of him being alone, no one helping him,” said Officer Agnaldo Monteiro, who organized the event. “No child should experience that. We want to adopt him as our own.”
Members of the Cape Verdean Police Officers’ Association, Boston Police Mobile Operations Unit, and Youth Violence Strike Force applauded when the boy entered the restaurant.
Officers gave Divan a badge, a pin, and a Boston police patch, as well as a special citation inducting him into the Boston Police Department, Area B-2. They also gave Divan purple bags stuffed with toy cars, action figures, and Spiderman stickers.
Before the shooting, DeAndrade said, Divan liked to ride his bike and go to the park with friends.
“Now he doesn’t stay out too long. All he’s been doing is video games,” DeAndrade said. “He won’t want to stand outside. He’s paranoid that it’s going to happen again.”
Boston-area children have been shot before, said Officer John Teixeira, a sergeant who attended Sunday’s event. “This is not the first time this happened,” he said.
In 1988, Darlene Tiffany Moore, 12, was shot and killed in her Roxbury neighborhood, caught in the crossfire between feuding drug dealers; 9-year-old Jermaine Goffigan was fatally shot on Halloween night in 1994; and 3-year-old Malik Andrade-Percival was shot and killed in his Dorchester home in 2002.
While walking home in Dorchester from a basketball game in 2007, 13-year-old Steven Odom was fatally shot in a case of mistaken identity.
“These shootings are not frequent, but even one is too much,” Teixeira said.
But Teixeira said the rate of child shootings has “tapered down from the ’90s.”
The police department aims to drive down shootings through youth summer safety initiatives that connect at-risk kids with jobs and peer training, Gross added.
“All kids are good, just some have been led astray,” Gross said.
The suspect in Divan’s shooting was described as a 14- to 18-year-old heavyset black male, about 5 feet 8 inches tall and wearing a red hoodie, white shorts, and white sneakers, police said.
A white Ford Fusion sedan with a moon roof and a rear spoiler was believed to be in the area at the time of the shooting.
While the investigation continues, Boston police officers plan to remain in contact with Divan.
“He’s part of the [police] family forever,” Gross said. “Not only is he traumatized, but his family has been traumatized as well.”
His mother received two Stop & Shop gift cards from the Boston police while Divan happily clutched his new badge and certificate.
“We’re going to work closely with her,” Gross said. The family will receive continued support from the Boston police, he added.
According to Monteiro, Divan will go to a Boys and Girls Club camp July 6, where he will swim, receive computer training, and go to Canobie Lake for free.
But Sunday, he was content with his new police title and toys.
He waited, grinning gleefully, as an officer pried open the plastic wrapping concealing a small silver Mercedes, which soon was weaving between glasses as he raced it across a table.
“I’m just really happy,” Divan said, placing a Lego Superman in the driver’s seat. “I can’t wait to go to Grandma’s house to put in the batteries.”
Rosa Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.