The U.S. Army hearse rolled at a quick clip down School Street last Friday morning, the body of murdered former Army veteran Stephen Perez Jr., 22, at eternal rest inside.
It passed through the stop sign at East Mountain Avenue.
Suddenly, a complete hush fell over the crowd of hundreds of Revere High School students and staff members who had gathered on School Street from E. Mountain Avenue to near Broadway.
American flags were in almost everyone’s hands.
Art students had made impromptu painted signs with messages of support printed upon them. Though few students at the ceremony knew Perez, there was a connection with almost every young person in the crowd; whether they were angry about senseless street violence, appreciative of Perez’s military service, or sad for the untimely death of another young person – each student in the crowd felt something.
Those who had – minutes before – been talking normally, were instantly brought to a silence and tears welled up in their eyes as the funeral procession drove by.
There was an intensity in the air not felt for generations at RHS.
Though Perez did not die during his two military tours in the Middle East, students and staff certainly considered him every bit as much a hero as if he had died during his service.
“This is very upsetting,” said RHS Senior Jasmine Ortiz. “He wasn’t taken while fighting for us. He was taken over something very stupid. There are no words for what I think should happen to the people who did this to him when they find them…I’m also taking this very personally because my friend is heading to Afghanistan very soon. He heads off to training soon.”
Added RHS student Michael LePore, “I think that it was good for us to show tribute to him out here. He was an Army sniper and he had been fighting for us. For him to meet an end like this is rotten.”
But it wasn’t just the students who were moved.
Many of the teachers, staff and administrators let tears flow or tried to hold them back as the procession passed.
“This was just a wonderful thing and I’m so glad they organized it and the family wanted to participate,” said Deputy Superintendent Ann Marie Costa.
Teacher Joanne McKenna said she was glad to have gotten to pay respects to a soldier that came home safe, only to be cut down by violence on American streets.
“It’s so sad because he just came home and look what happened here,” she said. “At the same time, I’m glad this tribute happened because we’ve never done anything like this at RHS and it shows how much we appreciate him. It shows respect for someone who fought for us.”
Added Science Teacher David Eatough, “In 18 years of teaching this is something new and something we’ve never done before and hopefully something we don’t have to do again.” After the funeral procession passed by RHS, it proceeded to St. Anthony’s Church where there was a funeral – which was mostly a private service. He was buried in Bourne National Cemetery on the Cape.
Perez was shot in the back at Boston’s Theatre District around 2 a.m. on April 28th. It was believed that there had been an altercation, but Perez was leaving the scene.
So far, Boston Police and District Attorney Dan Conley’s office have been pressing very hard to find Perez’s killer.
Last Friday, they released a surveillance video showing two men fleeing from the scene right after the shooting.
On Monday night, Boston Police indicated that the individuals running from the scene on that surveillance video had been seen earlier in the evening at the Caprice Lounge and Underbar. They had been celebrating a birthday at that bar.
“Homicide investigators continue to seek personal photos and cell phone videos from individuals who were in the area of Tremont Street and Stuart Street and also at Caprice Lounge and the Underbar on the evening of April 27th into the early morning hours of April 28th specifically between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” read the release. “Detectives are seeking to obtain witness photos or video possibly taken in the area which may include background images. Detectives are also seeking any images taken inside the surrounding establishments during the same timeframe. Anyone with these images are asked to email them directly to Sergeant Detective Marc Sullivan at [email protected]”
Earlier information put out by the Boston Police indicated that the men seen running on the surveillance video might have connections to Lynn.