Raekwon Brown’s junior year at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester was going well. He had the same group of friends since freshman year. He was popular around school, a well-known jokester. And after working hard all year, he had earned an A in biology and a B in math — a significant achievement for a student who struggled early in his high school career, according to Burke headmaster Lindsa McIntyre.
When the 17-year-old was gunned down early Wednesday afternoon less than a block from his school, classmates, family, and community members were left reeling from the loss of a young man they described as fun-loving, gregarious, and always respectful.
“Each year that he was here, he did nothing but grow and grow and grow,” McIntyre said . School officials said Brown had a 98 percent attendance record. Between the eighth and 10th grade, his MCAS math scores improved more than those of 90 percent of students statewide.
Relatives of the teen converged on Boston from around the country to mourn their family’s baby, the youngest of nine children. Standing across the street from Brother’s Supermarket, where Brown was shot, one of his brothers strained for words to describe his pain.
“This is my baby brother,” said Jonathan Planes, 26, who flew in Thursday morning from Minneapolis. “He hasn’t had time to live yet. He hasn’t gotten to see his nieces. To go across that graduation stage.”
As he spoke, he extended a hand to his sister, Patrice Volel, 29, who gripped it tightly.
Volel said she could not comprehend why anybody would have wanted to hurt her brother, a basketball lover and one-time aspiring rapper.
“He didn’t know anything about the streets,” she said.
As the Burke school let out Thursday, dozens of students walked the half-block to a makeshift memorial in front of the supermarket, many wearing pins bearing a black-and-white image of Brown.
The memorial grew as more and more students visited it, adding candles, flowers, and posters with photos of Brown. Stuffed animals accumulated, too, a nod to Brown’s nickname: “Teddy Bear.”
Stanley Wiggins, 28, Brown’s oldest brother, said the teen loved to shop and was always in search of “the hottest sneakers out there.” The two brothers had discussed taking a trip out of state to do some shopping, since Brown so liked the expensive stores on Newbury Street.
But aside from his penchant for flashy shoes, Volel said, Brown was “a homebody,” laid-back and committed to his family. He was a prankster, but his mother could never stay angry at his dinnertime antics.
“We’d be eating at the table and all of a sudden he’d do something, and my mom would get really mad about it but she couldn’t yell at him; she started laughing, too,” said Planes, chuckling as he thought about Ray Ray, as his family called him.
Other Burke students also recalled a young man who loved to laugh.
Burke senior Jamari Johnson, 19, said he and Brown shared similar taste in music and would dance every time they saw each other.
“If there were nice beats, he’d just do a dance, and I’d do it, too,” Johnson said.
City Councilor Tito Jackson, who lives two blocks from the school, said family members told him Brown never had a run-in with police and was not involved in violence.
By all accounts, he was gentle and unfailingly polite. Neighbor Peggy Perry, 60, said Brown would always offer to carry her groceries. Even community members who only knew him by sight noted his courtesy. Janine Santos, an employee at Sun Pizza, next door to Brother’s Supermarket, said she often sees fighting between Burke students who frequent the pizza shop after school. But Brown, she said, was “always respectful.”
“This wasn’t just another statistic, just another kid. This was someone I love,” said cousin Venus Williams, 37, who lives with Brown’s family. “I can’t believe he’s not here. I was looking for him to get up this morning, and he didn’t rise, and I said, ‘That’s right, he’s not here.’ ”
More than 100 mourners, including Brown’s mother, seemed to share that shock at a Thursday evening vigil at the site of the shooting. As Brown’s mother wept, one woman who identified herself as a relative shouted, “His mother raised a coward! She raised a coward!” in an apparent reference to the shooter, who still remains at large.
After the vigil, Brown’s mother returned to her Blue Hill Avenue home.
“He was a good kid,” she said, clutching a red rose and declining to comment further. Neighbors said she had adored him, never hesitating to spoil him with attention and gifts.
And Brown was even more cherished after a twin sister died at birth, Volel said.
“That just left Raekwon,” she said. “And now Raekwon is gone.”Travis Andersen and Andy Rosen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Vivian Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @vwang3.