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Dorchester shooting victim, a mother of three, was bystander

Friends say woman was walking to store; police appeal to public for help

Grisel Sanchez was relaxed and laughing, drinking white wine with girlfriends in her cousin’s apartment Tuesday night. The 31-year-old mother of three was in a good place: she was thinking of going back to church, looking for a new job, and planning a family trip to Water Country.

Around 10:30, Sanchez and her friends set out for cigarettes, saying they would be back.

The group of friends left Normandy Street for the gravel path through Puddingstone Park. Ahead of them, a cluster of young men sat on a porch. For a final moment, it was quiet, witnesses said.

And then: four booming shots. A pause. Two more.


The men on the porch scattered. Sanchez fell.

The gunfire was not meant for Sanchez, according to two law enforcement officials. It did not matter. Her sister, Angelica Rivera, said Sanchez was hit once and died instantly.

“They just took an innocent life, somebody who never bothered anybody,” Rivera said through tears on Wednesday afternoon, standing inside the park just feet from where Sanchez was killed.

By late Wednesday night, no arrests had been made in the shooting, which occurred several blocks away from the corner where 26-year-old Dawnn Jaffier was killed last August after being caught in the crossfire of a gang fight.

“Believe me, we’re going to get who’s responsible,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said of Sanchez’s killer. He called on witnesses to provide information. “A young mother with three kids and the world in front of her, a life full of promise, gets struck down, I think people should be outraged and they should be coming forward.”

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who spoke with Evans at a vigil for Sanchez Wednesday night, called the killing “senseless,” and said his prayers were with the family. He lamented what he said were lax gun laws in neighboring states that account for many of the illegal firearms flooding into the city.


“We need national gun control,” Walsh said. “We need a national registry so we can track these guns.”

City Councilor Tito Jackson also visited the scene earlier on Wednesday, and called the shooting “unacceptable.” He called on the people of the city to come together against the violence.

Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans were at the site Wednesday afternoon where Grisel Sanchez was killed.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

“It has to stop,” he said.

The shooting terrified people in the neighborhood. Beatrice Cole, 64, was in her bedroom when she heard the shots. When she ran to her living room, she found the carpet covered in broken glass and plaster. When she flicked on the lights, she understood why: two bullets had blasted through her walls.

One tore through her collection of family photographs, passed through the ceiling fan and struck the ceiling. The other entered the room from behind her favorite chair.

When she looked out her window, Cole saw the young men next door leaping from their porch and fleeing. When she turned her eyes to the park, she saw a small body crumpled in the darkness.

Hours later, she was so upset she never wanted to go back into the room decorated with Dora the Explorer, where her two granddaughters play on Saturdays and where the bullets entered late Tuesday night. “I didn’t clean up because I don’t want anything to do with it no more,” said Cole. The girls will not be allowed to visit anymore.


“Somehow or another we have to get out of here,” she said.

Sanchez’s friends and family members described her as a spunky and patient mother, who doted on her children: two sons, aged 11 and 14; and a 13-year-old daughter. Sanchez spent her days caring for her grandmother, who is in her 80’s and suffers from dementia.

Sanchez was sweet and gentle with the grandmother, her cousin, Yesenia Berrios said, and never tired of repeating the answers to her questions. But the family has not told her grandmother that Sanchez was killed, Berrios said. “If we tell her she’s not going to remember,” said Berrios. “She’ll just be reliving the pain over and over again.”

A neighbor said Sanchez’s grandmother asked on Wednesday if Sanchez, who the family lovingly called “Chichi,” was coming by later. The neighbor, who declined to give her name, could not bear to say anything but “Yes.”

Nearly every day, neighbors saw Sanchez walking up and down the street with her arm linked with her grandmother’s. She was known on her block for always insisting on making a plate of food for neighbors who stopped by her parties, and for her habit of salsa dancing on the sidewalk as she ran errands.

Tanya Hall, a longtime friend and neighbor of Sanchez, dropped off a beaded bracelet and candle at a memorial. Joanne Rathe/Globe staff

Early Wednesday afternoon, about 20 members of Sanchez’s family, including her two youngest children, visited the park where she died. Sanchez lived just one block away, on the third floor of a three-decker with her children.

The family gathered in a tight circle around the spot of blood on the pathway where Sanchez died. Her daughter clutched a stuffed lion, and with the toe of her flip-flop, kicked gravel over her mother’s blood. Family members wept and lit tall white candles.


“We prayed for our loved ones’ soul to go to heaven,” said Rivera, Sanchez’s sister. “We made sure that with our candles and our prayers, they go to the next life knowing that we forgave them for their sins and Jesus forgives them for their sins. And they go to heaven.”

At the evening vigil, about 100 friends and relatives of Sanchez packed the park where she was killed.

Sanchez’s daughter, Idalys Vasquez, 13, said at the vigil that “whoever did it needs to get arrested and needs to be put away for a long time.”

Vasquez said she was struggling to remain composed. “I feel like I want to break down and cry, but I’m trying to hold it in for my brothers.”

The area where Sanchez was slain has long been a dangerous one, with homicides, dozens of shootings, and a triple stabbing over the past ten years. So far this year, there have been six shootings within a quarter-mile radius of the park, according to police, including the shooting that killed Sanchez.

Local clergy and community leaders called for an end to the gun violence.

“You have bullets flying into other people’s property, other people’s homes . . . We’re living in a very dangerous society right now,” said the Rev. Vernard Coulter, of New Faith Missionary Baptist Church.


“Nobody deserves to be murdered in the streets,” said Rufus J. Faulk, program director at the Boston TenPoint Coalition. “We need the entire city to come together.”

Angelica Rivera, the sister of shooting victim Grisel Sanchez, was seen at Puddingstone Park.Joanne Rathe/Globe staff

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com.