Grieving students on Thursday mourned Daniel Hollis, a 19-year-old Emerson College sophomore who died following a fight outside an off-campus party in Brighton over the weekend.
Hollis’s friends and classmates wept and embraced as they walked into a 200-seat Emerson College theater for a memorial service, where a large photo of the smiling 6-foot-4 lacrosse player from Hopedale was projected onstage.
“It’s so hard to comprehend that he was with us one day, and the next day he was gone,” said Jared Haines, a 19-year-old sophomore who was struggling to hold back tears.
He said Hollis’s death has shaken students’ sense of security, coming after the kind of routine neighborhood house party that many attend in the Allston-Brighton area.
“It’s something that we do a lot, and you can’t always think everything is going to be perfect,” Haines said. “That safety is almost lost. And I hope there is justice brought.”
Boston police said Thursday that they are treating Hollis’s death as a homicide and appealed to the public for information.
“The Boston Police Department continues to actively review the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident,” the department said in a statement.
Police say Hollis died after a report of an assault and battery in progress around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday near 15 Park Vale Ave. in Brighton.
When officers arrived, they found Hollis unconscious and suffering from a head injury. He was brought to a hospital and died Wednesday, two days after his mother said he was on life support and not expected to regain consciousness.
Jen Kelly wrote on CaringBridge.org that her son and his friends were leaving a party when they were “confronted by another group of college-aged boys.”
“Words were exchanged, pushing/shoving started, and in the scuffle, we believe Dan was hit and subsequently hit his head on cement/bricks as he fell,” she wrote.
Thursday’s memorial service inside Semel Theater was led by Lee Pelton, Emerson College’s president, along with the Rev. Julie Avis Rogers, the campus chaplain. Pelton called it a “deeply emotional gathering.”
“This is a young man who was chock-full of life,” Pelton said after the service, which was closed to the press.
“To have his journey of becoming the person that was he meant to be cut short is something that fills all of our hearts with grief.”
Pelton said Emerson will help homicide detectives conduct a thorough investigation.
“It’s our hope the police . . . will be able to unravel what happened and bring to justice the person or persons who might have been involved in his death,” Pelton said.
Eric Moxim, Hollis’s lacrosse coach at Hopedale Junior Senior High School, southwest of Boston, said it was comforting for Hollis’s high school teammates to mourn with his teammates from college.
“We’re all missing a beautiful young man,” Moxim said after the service.
Moxim said Hollis was affectionate and upbeat.
“He was a hugger,” Moxim said. “He would put his head on your shoulder. I found myself in there going, ‘If Dan was here at that event, he would have spent the whole time making sure everyone else felt right.’ ”
When Emerson’s lacrosse team won its first conference game in six years last year, Hollis’s “excitement on the sideline was extraordinary,” said Aaron Miller, a friend who covered the team as sports editor of the Berkeley Beacon, the student newspaper.
“Dan was the light on the sideline,” Miller said. “He was the extra man on the field, even though he wasn’t on most of the time.”
Allison Walker, a senior, said that while she did not know Hollis, she and other students are troubled that he died after a night out in Allston-Brighton.
“The mystery behind everything is the scariest part of it,” she said. “I think we’ve all been to a party in Allston and just walking around, and just that something like that could happen so fast, and he fell. It’s so sad.”