Community reacts to killing of store clerk

January 8, 2010
By

David Taber


Gazette Photo by David Taber A peace dove painted on the sidewalk in 2008 by youths from the Hyde Square Task Force is not far from flowers left on the step outside the Tedeschi Food Shop at 783 Centre St. where store clerk Surendra Dangol was shot and killed during a Dec. 26 robbery.

MONUMENT SQ.—Surendra Dangol, a clerk at the Tedeschi Food Shop convenience store at 783 Centre St., was shot and killed during a daylight robbery of the store Dec. 26 in a shocking act of violence that has inspired remorse and reflection in the local community.

Police are seeking a suspect who was caught on surveillance video loitering outside the store, committing the crime and fleeing the scene in a four-door white sedan that police say is likely a Plymouth Acclaim from between 1986 and 1992.

The video footage was posted at www.bpdnews.com on Dec. 29. In it, the suspect—a man dressed in a black trench coat and wearing a hat and what police say is likely a wig—is seen sitting and wandering around in the plaza outside of the store. At one point, he goes around the corner to Eliot Street and appears to talk to the driver of the white sedan he later drives away in.

Only about five minutes of footage are posted on the web site, but according to press materials on the site, the suspect loitered outside the store between 2:30 and 3 p.m. before entering the convenience store. In the footage inside the store, Dangol appears to be cooperating fully with the suspect, who is pointing a handgun at him. The shooting is not included in the footage.

Even in the five minutes of police footage, about a half-dozen people passed by the suspect. Rev. Terry Burke of the First Church in Jamaica Plain, Unitarian Universalist, located across Eliot Street from the Tedeschi, said he went to the store to shop apparently moments after Dangol was shot. “I came by that day around 3 p.m.” Burke said. “I asked someone and they said, ‘I think there has been a shooting.’”

That evening, Burke opened the church for community members. “It seemed like the least we could do—make sure the church was open for people to talk or meditate or pray, do what they wanted to do,” he said. About 25 people showed up, he said.

Dangol, an immigrant from Nepal who was living in Somerville, did not have deep ties in JP. While he said he was not sure, “I think I spoke to him on a number of occasions,” Burke said. But many community members had strong reactions to the brazen daylight shooting.

“A number of people’s reaction was, ‘This is so not JP.’ JP is about crossing divisions and boundaries. Race, class, whether you are gay or straight, doesn’t matter. People get along,” he said.

While Burke said no one he spoke to believed the robbery and shooting to be a hate crime, “It was so counter to how we feel about being welcoming to people,” he said.

A few bouquets of flowers have been left at the corner of Eliot and Centre streets since the shooting. The plaza is also the site of one of the “Peace Dove” street paintings by youth at the Hyde Square Task Force, created in 2008 following the shooting death of a young man in JP. Dangol’s killer walked right over the dove, whose motto says, “Stop violence—create peace.”

On the Eliot Street side of the building, a mural features a Latin phrase that is somewhat ominous in light of the killing—“Ars longa, vita brevis,” or, “Art is long, life is short.”

Some expressed shock that a murder occurred at a place where “their kids, when they have a couple of bucks, walk a couple of blocks to get candy,” while others said, “It was a terrible thing, but we have had other shootings in JP, in poorer sections, and they don’t get as much coverage,” Burke said.

He said his own feelings about the tragedy were focused on Dangol’s story as an immigrant. “My grandfather was an immigrant. [Dangol] wanted a better life for himself and his family, and somebody shot him.”

Another JP resident, Kristy Nardone, who lives near the store and said she shops there regularly, said she was “shocked and deeply saddened that something like that happened in our community.”

Nardone is director of public affairs and field services for the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, an independent state agency that provides support services for crime victims/survivors. More information about the Office of Victim Assistance is available at www.mass.gov/mova or by calling 727-5200.

“My first thought was for the victim and his family and what they must be going through,” she said.

According to media reports, Dangol’s wife, brother and daughter flew to Boston last weekend. Prior to that, it was unclear if his daughter would be granted a visa for the visit, but thanks in part to the intervention of Congressman Mike Capuano, the visa was granted.

The first of two funeral ceremonies for Dangol was held on Monday at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. A traditional Hindu ceremony will take place when his family takes his ashes back to Nepal, according to media reports.

A fund has been established at Citizens Bank in Dangol’s name help support Dangol’s family.

Donations can be sent to the Surendra Dangol Fund, c/o Citizens Bank, 696 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. Contributions can also be made via PayPal at the Greater Boston Nepali Community web site.

Anyone with information about the suspect is urged to contact the Boston Police Department (BPD) Homicide Unit at 343-4470.

People who want to provide information anonymously can call the CrimeStoppers Hotline at 1-800-494-TIPS or text 8477 (“TIPS”) to 27463 (CRIME). Tedeschi Food Shop is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Dangol’s death.

John Ruch contributed to this article.

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