LOWELL — Pallbearers eased the young boy’s coffin from the hearse and turned to carry it up the steps into St. Michael Church. Behind them, a small group of family and friends huddled still and silent in the cold. The only sound was the idling of the police motorcycles that had pulled up moments before to block traffic.
Mourners wore T-shirts that showed the smiling face of the little boy they had come to bury: 7-year-old Javien Candelario, who was mauled to death last Sunday by two pit bulls in Lowell.
At the funeral Saturday morning, another boy, who looked not much older than Javien, helped carry his coffin up and into the church.
“They’re pretty devastated by this. They’re not saying much. They’re very quiet,” said the Rev. Guy Sciacca, who said the funeral Mass, in a phone interview. “Poor little Javien, he meant the world to them. What happened to him was a tragedy.”
Candelario’s funeral was private, and family and friends did not speak with reporters.
The child was attacked on Clare Street late last Saturday afternoon, after he apparently entered a fenced area where two pit bulls were kept next to a home, according to the Middlesex district attorney’s office.
Neighbors said they summoned help as soon as they saw the dogs dragging the boy, but it was too late.
When police arrived, they shot one of the dogs, but it jumped the fence and ran a mile before they caught and killed it. The other dog was taken by animal control officers.
A spokeswoman for the DA’s office said the case remained an “open and ongoing” investigation, and no further information was being released.
The boy’s death has reignited debate in Lowell about whether pit bulls are too dangerous for residents to keep as pets.
The city tried in 2011 to regulate the breed after a string of vicious attacks, requiring pit bulls to be spayed or neutered as well as muzzled and leashed when off their owners’ property, but the ban was overturned after the state passed a law preventing local communities from banning specific breeds of dogs.
On Tuesday night, the Lowell City Council voted unanimously to have the city manager investigate “the viability of measures” that can be taken “against certain breeds of dogs.”
Residents of the neighborhood where Javien lived said they often saw the boy riding his bike around.
He was friendly and always said hello, they said. And he loved animals.
“He was always trying to pet a dog,” said Giovanni E. Miranda, a neighbor who spoke with the Globe last week. “There can’t be anything worse than to lose a 7-year-old to a dog.”
Sciacca said the Candelario family are “faith-filled” people, and the service Saturday was deeply meaningful to them.
When it was over, mourners walked out of the church, some weeping.
Before the procession to the cemetery began, a woman walked over to the back of the hearse that held the boy’s coffin and pressed her head to the windshield.
When she turned to rejoin the group, another woman walked over and made the sign of the cross against the glass.Evan Allen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @EvanMAllen.