Rarely has there been the kind of outrage in the communities of Revere and Winthrop as there has been over the past several days upon hearing the news of the brutal assault on Richie Scannelli – a 59-year-old mentally disabled man who hails from Revere and lives in Winthrop.
Scannelli has been a beloved figure in both communities – virtually impossible to miss.
He has been the sergeant-at-arms for the Revere City Council, a dedicated member of the Revere League of Special Needs, an honorary firefighter for the Winthrop Fire Department, a yearly visitor to House Speaker Bob DeLeo and Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, and an ever-present helping hand at Nick’s Place in Winthrop Center.
He is a character in every sense of the word, and the kind of guy who makes a community more of a community.
And so that’s why it was such a stab in the heart of both communities when three Winthrop teens allegedly chased down Scannelli last Tuesday night, Aug. 6, after a verbal confrontation in the parking lot of Nick’s in Winthrop – catching the fleeing Scannelli (who had a broken foot) and punching him in the face with such force that he has required hours and hours of surgery to repair his jaw.
So far, one teen – Anthony Gallo, 17, of Winthrop – has been charged with assault and battery and causing injury while violating a person’s civil rights.
The two other teens were not charged in the incident.
Sources very close to the investigation have indicated that a surveillance video of the incident shows all three teens chasing Scannelli down and participating in the attack. However, that same source indicated that the video only shows Gallo allegedly punching Scannelli.
Gallo was freed on personal recognizance on Thursday in East Boston District Court.
Scannelli has endured several days of expensive medical care, including one day in which he had a surgery that lasted seven hours.
Prosecutors indicated that at some point in the night, the three youths were allegedly drinking in the parking lot and shaking a car that wasn’t theirs. Scannelli allegedly told the youths to stop shaking the car.
Instead, the three youths engaged Scannelli in a verbal altercation, during which time Gallo allegedly used epithets referring to Scannelli’s disability and then allegedly punched him in the face.
Scannelli didn’t initially report the matter to Winthrop Police.
The next day he came to the station in a great deal of pain from the fight, being immediately rushed to Mass General Hospital for treatment.
Winthrop Police were able to gather evidence via surveillance video, Scannelli’s statements and the statements of witnesses who observed the alleged attack.
“This was an utterly shameful example of unprovoked violence against a person who could not defend himself,” District Attorney Dan Conley said. “It was the act of a coward and a bully.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said he has grown quite close to Scannelli over the years, hosting him at the State House on his birthday and letting him sit behind the Speaker’s desk. He said he has visited Scannelli several times over the last few days, and he is in much better spirits and already looking forward to his 60th birthday party.
“There is a little bit more to him than his jokes and hanging around and visiting people all the time,” he said. “He has a huge heart. I’ll never forget him walking all the way from Winthrop to East Boston in the freezing temperatures of January to be at my father’s funeral. He couldn’t ride his bicycle because it wouldn’t go in the snow. He really wanted to be there for me and would stop at nothing. There are people all over Revere and Winthrop with those kinds of stories about him. If all of us cared about people like Richie does, we’d probably have a better society.”
DeLeo added that he hopes the incident doesn’t cast Winthrop in a negative light when it comes to how the community is viewed in its treatment towards those with developmental disabilities.
“Winthrop is a very, very tolerant community, especially for people with mental or physical disabilities,” he said. “Out of all this, there might be people out there who think this is emblematic of Winthrop. It isn’t. Winthrop is very concerned about how people with disabilities are treated.”
Gallo will return to court on Oct. 1, and he is to stay alcohol-free and to abide by a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew.