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Shots outside Fenway bar take a cherished son

Off-duty conductor called innocent victim in violence near ballpark

Jephthe Chery was shot and killed outside of a Fenway bar Thursday morning.
Jephthe Chery was shot and killed outside of a Fenway bar Thursday morning. (Jan Ransom/Globe Staff)

Jephthe Chery, a Haitian emigre with big dreams, got his start with the MBTA cleaning train cars, quickly ascending to conductor. His goal was to become a locomotive engineer.

Friday, he would have turned 30. But early Thanksgiving morning, outside a bar near Fenway Park that has gained a reputation for violence, he was caught in a hail of gunfire that authorities said was intended for someone else.

“My son, my son, my son is gone,” said the man’s mother, Rose Chery, her cries echoing down the block outside the family home in Hyde Park when she heard the news. “He’s my heart.”

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Jephthe Chery and three other men were shot shortly after 2 a.m. outside the Who’s On First bar on Yawkey Way, a few hours before thousands of fans arrived at Fenway for Thanksgiving Day high school football games.

The three other men sustained injuries that were not believed to be life- threatening. No suspects had been arrested by Thursday night.

“No mother should get a phone call that her son has been shot and killed any day of the week, nevermind Thanksgiving Day,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Thursday. “This has to stop.”

Boston’s top police official described the man who was killed as “an innocent” who got caught in crossfire.

“A few of the kids shot are well known to us,” Police Commissioner William B. Evans said. “Not necessarily the victim. The victim had nothing to do with this.”

Dozens of friends and relatives trickled into the Blake Street house, where they cried, hugged, and shared memories of Chery, described as the family’s breadwinner. His mother walked around the home her son had purchased, an apron tied around her waist, grieving her loss.

Officials from Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the commuter rail for the MBTA, issued a statement lamenting Chery’s death.

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“MBTA Commuter Rail and Keolis Commuter Services mourn the senseless loss of conductor Jephthe Chery,” the statement said. “He was beloved and respected by his friends and colleagues on the railroad. Today, we think deeply of his family, friends, and co-workers.”

Boston police are encouraging anyone with cellphone footage of the shooting to come forward. Chery’s death marked the 32d homicide this year, compared to 50 at this time last year.

Evans described the scene as hectic moments after the shooting and said a sergeant had inspected Who’s On First shortly before the shooting began. He said officers were less than a block away.

Walsh said the chaos unfolded after a private party at the bar. Chery had stopped by the bar to see a friend, relatives said Thursday.

Who’s On First — located next to a Red Sox souvenir shop — is not owned by the team.

In a statement to the Globe, a Red Sox spokeswoman said the team is working to assist police in their investigation.

“The safety of our fans and employees is of the utmost importance,” said Zineb Curran, director of corporate communications for the Red Sox. “Last night’s incident took place after-hours and was unrelated to any events taking place at Fenway Park. We are working with Boston police to provide any assistance that may help with their investigation.”

The Globe is owned by John W. Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox.

Licensing Board records show the popular pub has racked up a host of violations for shootings, stabbings, and other attacks dating to 2001, when employees were accused of assault and battery against a patron.

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“It has a history of violent incidents,” Evans said, noting it’s not indicative of the neighborhood. “It’s been nothing but a nuisance for us.”

Thursday’s fatal shooting was at least the third violent incident to happen in or directly outside Who’s On First this year.

Boston Police outside Who’s On First where a fight broke out last night and three people were shot, one fatal, across the street from Fenway Park.
Boston Police outside Who’s On First where a fight broke out last night and three people were shot, one fatal, across the street from Fenway Park.(Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)

On Sept. 6, two women in their 20s were shot by patrons leaving the bar about 2 a.m. Police said at the time they believed that shooting was gang-related. The bar was cited but it is unclear whether the owners appeared for a hearing or received further disciplinary action.

Evans said the bar was a problem even when he was a captain at a police station in the neighborhood.

He said the department has tried meeting with management to discuss security concerns and now the matter will need to go before the Licensing Board.

“Every other bar doesn’t have these issues, and the area is the safest it could be,” he said.

Management of Who’s On First could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A friend said Chery had just gotten off work when he stopped by the bar.

“Right now, it’s so hard,” said Melvin, 30, a cousin who declined to give his last name.

Friends and family said Chery, who enjoyed traveling, had just planned a trip to the Dominican Republic.

He was also looking forward to celebrating his birthday by seeing his favorite bands Klass and DJakout on Thursday night, said a longtime friend, Cynthia, 29, who declined to give her last name.

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One cousin said Chery was never into trouble.

“He’s family-oriented,” said longtime friend Charldyn Valcin, 29. “He’s a God-fearing man.”

Valcin said Chery, who had attended Bunker Hill Community College and the University of Massachusetts, had a younger brother and sister.

He was a man who was always laughing, Valcin said.

“He makes you just feel so comfortable that you have no choice but to love him,” he said.

Melvin said Chery enjoyed helping others. “He was always there when you needed him,” Melvin said.

“If you’re hungry, you need a sandwich; he’d break that bread with you,” the cousin said.

Evans said his heart goes out to the family. “I just feel for his family. To get that news on what’s supposed to be such a great family day . . .”

Evans said officers found a gun at the scene.

Hours after the shooting, thousands of football fans descended on Fenway Park.

The crime scene they encountered contrasted sharply with the high spirits of fans arriving for the Needham-Wellesley high school football game, at 9 a.m.

“We have really been looking forward to this,” said Rachel Foley, the mother of Needham High quarterback Sam Foley, 17, a senior.

“He is so excited to be playing here,” she said.

Her husband, Mike, described the shooting as worrisome.

“They’re still looking for the suspect, I heard,” he said, walking along Van Ness Street. “There already was extra security on for the game. I guess now there will be more.”

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Jan Ransom can be reached at jan.ransom@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at Jan_Ransom.