Residents of a secluded, Boston-area coastal community are trying to come to terms with the shooting of two Black residents in what authorities say appears to be a racially-motivated killing over the weekend.
Officials in Winthrop, the community near Logan International Airport, held a vigil to honor the victims Thursday night in front of town hall. Family and friends of retired Massachusetts State Police trooper David Green and Air Force Veteran Ramona Cooper were among the crowd that held a moment of silence, a candlelight vigil and sang "Amazing Grace.''
“I want to say this loud and clear — to my brother, all lives mattered,” said Ray Green, who remembered his brother David as someone who never missed a chance to do something good for something else.
“He could connect with anyone, and when he talked to you he talked from his heart. When he listened to you, he listened not only with his ears but with his heart,” Ray Green added.
A family spokesman read a statement from Cooper's son, Gary: “To my mom, Ramona, I love you always, and I can’t wait to see you again someday. You are truly missed."
The vigil brought out hundreds of people, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and security was tight. Police K-9s swept the area beforehand and trucks blocked off nearby roads.
Green and Cooper were each shot multiple times by Nathan Allen after he crashed a stolen box truck into a residential building not far from his condo.
Allen shot Cooper, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran, three times in the back. He then shot Green, a 68-year-old retired Massachusetts State Police trooper, four times in the head and three times in the torso. Witnesses said later Green was attempting to intervene.
The gunman was killed by police moments later. It's unclear where he was headed on the day of the shooting. He encountered several other people who were not Black and didn't harm them.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins pointed out while Thursday night was about the victims, the suspect's family is as devastated as anyone else.
“They are experiencing the same shock that we are,” Rollins said. "That family is horrified by what happened. They offer their deepest condolences to these two families.”
Little has been disclosed about what triggered the rampage, leaving some fearful and anxious in the nearly all-white town.
Sources tell NBC10 Boston that a backpack connected to the gunman was recovered Sunday morning not too far from where police say he stole a box truck minutes before the rampage started. According to the sources, weapons, ammunition and a pamphlet on how to control your breathing while shooting were recovered.
The 28-year-old was not on the radar of law enforcement. His social media accounts also gave no hints that he held racist beliefs or might explain why he crashed a stolen truck and then gunned down a Black retired state trooper and a Black Air Force veteran.
Neighbors in his condo community said he struck them as just another tenant.
"I just couldn't believe it,'' said Mary Harrington, 75, who lives a few doors down from the gunman in the complex, earlier this week. "It's kind of scary knowing someone next door is that sick.''
"To all external sources he likely appeared unassuming," Rollins said earlier this week. "This shooter was married and employed. He had a Ph.D. and no criminal history."
Rollins said the gunman privately expressed anti-Semitic and anti-Black sentiments in a handwritten notebook. Rollins, who is Black, hasn't detailed the writings other than to say they included swastikas and references to whites being "apex predators'' and the superior race.
"When he became radicalized, or when he started believing these things, we are not certain yet,'' she said. "But I am confident saying that there was hate in this man's heart.''
The mayhem was a stark contrast to the shooter's online persona. Just days before the attack, in what would be his final Facebook post, he wished his wife happy birthday and posted a photo from their wedding last September. Their engagement was profiled months earlier by The Boston Globe. His since-deleted social media accounts featured pictures of the couple's pet rabbit and their travels through Europe years earlier.
The gunman also shared videos from a Boston boxing gym he'd recently joined. The club, in a since deleted Facebook post, thanked him last summer for raising $800 to benefit the club's summer youth program.
The shooter grew up in Wareham near Cape Cod, the son of a Navy medic and elementary school teacher. He met his future wife as a student at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, where they graduated in 2014. In January, he earned a doctorate in physical therapy from the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston.
The gunman's wife and family haven't spoken publicly about the shooting. Earlier this week, a woman answered the door buzzer at the couple's condo but quickly hung up.
Fatima Elhoud, who lives in the Allen's building but didn't know the couple, said she was surprised her neighbor could have been so racist, considering the complex was fairly diverse.
"It's definitely scary, especially if you have kids,'' the native of Morocco said as she and her husband walked their two young sons to the complex's pool one recent afternoon. "We've lived here more than 20 years. It's always been safe.''
Meanwhile, at the site of the shooting, Matthew Vasel showed up Wednesday afternoon with flowers.
"I felt bad for the people who got shot and killed by this person," he said. "I just wanted to help, bring flowers and show my respect for the people who died."
The shooting is being investigated as a hate crime. Rollins said the shooter had made "some troubling white supremacist rhetoric" that targeted Black and Jewish people.
Rochelle Cooper, Ramona's daughter-in-law, described what her husband is going through.
"It's bad enough, him losing his mother in that way, so suddenly, but then to find out that it was possibly targeted because of the color of her skin, that made it even worse on him," she said.
Rochelle Cooper says her family has been touched by the outpouring of support from the community, including many people they don't even know.
"Even though this was a very horrific thing to happen, there's still good people," she said. "That's really what we want people to realize."
On Wednesday night, Winthrop public health officials held a walk-in community meeting for those wanting to meet with members of the town's trauma services team.
Residents are also mobilizing to help Green's and Cooper's families pay for funeral expenses.
"It was horrible," said Andrew Biggio, the founder of Boston's Wounded Vet Run. Both Green and Cooper were veterans and so Biggio's non-profit says it wants to pay $5,000 to each family to help cover funeral expenses.
"Ms. Cooper relocated from the Chelsea Soldier Home to Winthrop to a new apartment to start a new life, and it is not fair to her family to have to deal with this right now, and it is not fair for Mr. Green who was in retirement," Biggio said.
Green's funeral is set for Friday. There's been no word yet on arrangements for Cooper.