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‘We believe in hope!’: Vigil for man killed by police becomes rally

Hope Coleman is comforted at a vigil for her son, Terrence, in the South End Wednesday night.
Hope Coleman is comforted at a vigil for her son, Terrence, in the South End Wednesday night. (Keith Bedford/Globe Staff)

Activists and relatives of a man fatally shot by Boston police demanded Wednesday that the officers face criminal charges for the killing.

The advocates issued their call during a candlelight vigil for 31-year-old Terrence Coleman less than a block from where he was shot early Sunday in the South End.

Authorities say Coleman, who had battled mental illness, attacked paramedics with a knife at his Shawmut Avenue residence, but his family insists he was unarmed during the confrontation.

“Justice needs to be served,” said Albert Moore, Coleman’s uncle, during impassioned remarks at the vigil. “They killed my nephew in cold blood, right in front of his mother.”

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Through tears, Moore said the officers “not only killed my nephew but damaged the family.”

As Moore spoke, Hope Coleman, Terrence’s mother, leaned on the relatives’ shoulders and wept. About 100 people attended the vigil held on an unusually warm November night.

She previously told the Globe that she witnessed the shooting and that her son was not holding a knife.

But earlier Wednesday, a top official with Boston EMS told the Globe that Hope Coleman was outside the building when shots were fired.

The advocates disputed that account at the vigil, repeatedly breaking into a chant of “We Believe in Hope! We Believe in Hope!”

Brock Satter of Mass Action Against Police Brutality, which organized the vigil, said in a prepared statement that Hope Coleman “was next to [her son] when he was shot and insists Terrence did not have a knife and posed absolutely no threat to anyone.”

Satter called for “the immediate arrest and criminally charging” of the officers who shot Coleman.

In a statement, Boston police Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy, a department spokesman, said police “continue to send our thoughts and prayers to the Coleman family during what must be a difficult time and we are grateful that the EMTs continue to recover.”

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Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who is investigating Coleman’s death according to standard protocol, said prosecutors have not prejudged the case.

“Our duty is to find the facts and apply the law, and that process is in its earliest stages,” Wark said in a statement. “We would ask for patience as we undertake that important work, and we pledge to the community that we will release the entire investigative file ... when that work is done.”

Tori Furtado took part in a vigil for Terrence Coleman in Boston.
Tori Furtado took part in a vigil for Terrence Coleman in Boston. (Keith Bedford/Globe Staff)

As Hope Coleman sobbed during the vigil, she was comforted by Rahimah Rahim, whose son, Usaama, was fatally shot last year in Roslindale by officers with a Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Usaama Rahim, a terror suspect who had been under round-the-clock surveillance, allegedly lunged at officers with a military-style knife.

“I understand your pain,” Rahimah Rahim told Hope Coleman during brief remarks at the vigil. “I’m here to stand with you. ... Justice is coming” for the grieving families.

After the vigil, people marched through the neighborhood carrying signs expressing solidarity with the Coleman family.

Marching with a police escort, they chanted “Justice for Terrence!” and “We Believe In Hope!”

Satter said the calls for justice will continue.

He also led the crowd in a spirited call and response exchange.

“Watch my back, I’m under attack,” he shouted into a megaphone. “You got my back?”

The demonstrators replied, “I got your back!”

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Protesters gathered at a vigil for Terrence Coleman in Boston.
Protesters gathered at a vigil for Terrence Coleman in Boston. (Keith Bedford/Globe Staff)

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.