LYNN — Muriel Clement, the Lynn mother of a 46-year-old man killed on Easter Sunday last year, attributes the support of the community with being able to move forward with her life following the devastating tragedy.
Clement’s son, Lenardo Clement, was fatally shot in 2017 when he was walking downtown near the LynnArts building in Central Square with his friend, Prince Belin, after the two left services at Zion Baptist Church.
Belin was shot moments later, but survived. The two men and Belin’s fiancée were walking when they were allegedly confronted by a man in a Chrysler, identified by police as William A. Cash, who demanded to speak with the woman.
Cash, the alleged shooter, stopped in the crosswalk and threatened them before shots rang out, including three rounds into Lenardo.
Cash has been charged with murder and his trial is expected next March or April, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.
“When this tragedy happened to my son, I thought my life was over. I didn’t think I could go on,” said Muriel Clement.
“I had some amazing support from my community and my church, my work and I had a terrific therapist working with me so a lot was given to me to get me this far,” she said. “I got prepared to give back some of what was given to me because there’s a lot of people who walk in my shoes who have nothing and I wanted to provide them with some opportunity to rebuild their life because I’m sure a lot of them are like myself.”
Clement, looking to provide the same kind of support she has received, has started a new chapter in Lynn of Bereaved Parents of the USA, a national nonprofit organization that offers support, understanding, compassion, hope and healing to bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents who are struggling to rebuild their lives after the loss of a child, regardless of the age or circumstance of death.
The chapter will serve the Northeast region and will be the organization’s first in Massachusetts.
Clement said it’s a relief that the accused killer is off the streets, but out of her tragedy, she’d like families to know the impact of things that children can get into.
“Nobody knows why he became the monster he became,” she said. “We all have a responsibility as a community to make sure our children are safe and they are given proper direction in life.”
Clement said her son was a very caring person. He was legally blind, but was very independent and chose not to be defined by his disability. Lenardo was diagnosed with viral encephalitis when he was 2, which caused him to lose his vision.
The family came to the United States from Barbados because of his illness. Doctors had given up hope that he was going to live, or there was a possibility he wasn’t going to be well enough to be a functioning member of society.
But Clement said Lenardo was always involved in community engagement and was an active leader of Essex County Community Organization.
“He always opened his heart to helping other people,” Clement said. “This is a gift I can give to honor his contribution to the community.”
Clement said her son never bothered anyone in the city and no one bothered him until that fateful day. The wound is still there from comments former Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy made following the shooting that there was no danger to the public because the victim and suspect were known to each other.
Kennedy spoke with The Item following the shooting last year — there were five homicides at the time in the city and 12 total in 2017 — and said the homicides were not random acts of violence and the community should not worry about their safety because the victims and perpetrators were known to each other.
But Clement said her son knew nothing about the man accused in his killing. She said it was stereotypical to characterize the situation in that way, assuming that the people who knew each other were involved, as all three men involved were black.
“When you get that kind of a response coming from a person at the top of your city, then what is it saying to the others in the community, that these lives don’t matter,” Clement said. “I don’t even know if I should say it was racial or not. I feel like it was ignorant. It was stereotypical and it was ignorant to stereotype my son. She never thought to ask the question — who are these people?”
Kennedy did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Lynn’s Bereaved Parents’ chapter meetings will be held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, starting in October, at the Lynn Community Health Center. Attendees will be able to share their fears, confusion, grief or anger at the sessions, and there will also be education offered on the subject of grief and loss, according to Clement.
A chapter launch celebration will be Oct. 9. Reservations are required and those interested should contact Clement at bereavedparentsusa2018[email protected] or 617-529-8686.