It’s just a boo-boo. That’s what a grandmother told her 2-year-old granddaughter to explain the bullet wounds in the little girl’s hand and leg.
The toddler is just learning to talk, but she already knows what it feels like to be shot. It happened Saturday, as she sat in a car seat, in the path of a bullet apparently meant for her father.
“She’s a trouper,” said her grandmother, Brenda Peoples, 49, of Roxbury, tearfully, on Sunday morning. Peoples said the little girl she calls “princess” watched matter-of-factly as doctors cleaned out her hand. She barely cried.
The shots shattered car windows and pierced the child’s body, but didn’t hit bone.
In this neighborhood near Dudley Square, manicured lawns and homes sit side-by-side with ones that have been riddled by bullets. Neighbors chat on their front porches, but remain leery of strangers, afraid to be heard talking about local street violence. They don’t want to be the next target, one man said.
But Peoples, shaken by her granddaughter’s brush with death, says enough silence.
She wants her community to speak up for her granddaughter. Peoples abides by a motto she learned working for the MBTA: If you see something, say something. She believes this is the only way anyone will be caught, the only way to stop the violence.
“People should be willing to speak up and say whatever they saw,” Peoples said. “I just feel people don’t want to speak because they may be targeted. I never thought I’d be in this position.”
The shooting of children — the collateral damage of street violence — is all too common here. Police are still investigating two other Roxbury shootings from a week ago, a 9-year-old and a 19-year-old.
The Rev. Miriam E. Sedzro, pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Dudley Square, said this fear of retribution has been a longtime problem and needs to change.
“People have to talk,” Sedzro said. Otherwise “predators prey on a community. This ‘no snitching’ makes no sense to me. . . . The way you create a community is you work together. You watch out for each other. You don’t let the criminals intimidate you.”
Peoples’s young granddaughter was, in the end, one of the luckier victims. On Sunday, family members said the toddler was doing well.
Overnight, she’d been asking for “Nonni,” a nickname for her grandmother.
“I just want her to walk away with a [short] recovery,” Brenda Peoples said. “Hopefully, at the end, as she grows it doesn’t traumatize her.”
The Boston Globe is not naming the victim due to her age.
Her father also remains unidentified. Police said they suspect he’s involved in gang activity.
Peoples wasn’t home at the time of the shooting.
She’d gone to pick up chicken in Dudley Square. When she returned, there were two groups outside, young and old. She knew someone had been shot. She thought the victim was the baby’s father. Then she realized it was her granddaughter. She stayed at the hospital until nearly 9 p.m.
“This could’ve been worse,” said Peoples, a bus driver with the T for 13 years. She paused and took another nervous breath. “I thank God that it turned out the way it did.”
Relatives from near and far came over Saturday night to pray for the little girl and support each other. Peoples called the prayer time “healing.” She wants the same for her community.
“I wish the young people, the youth around here, would take life a little more seriously,” Peoples said. “This retaliation thing . . . it’s back and forth, back and forth. She’s going to be 3 in January. She doesn’t have any sense of all this [violence] going down.”
Nearby, Peoples’s 8-year-old grandson played Super Smash Bros. He listened as she spoke. She didn’t think he understood the severity of what happened, but he said he did.
“I’m lucky I still have a baby sister,” he said quietly. “Even when she’s annoying and gives me a headache.”
Peoples smiled slightly, rubbed her eyes, and prepared to cook steak, rice, and gravy for her princess. Later, she was going to the hospital to visit her.