When we first heard the news last week of the alleged attack by three teenage youths from our community upon Richie Scannelli, a 59 year old resident with mental disabilities, it gave us the sort of sickening feeling as if we ourselves had been punched in the stomach. The thought that Richie Scannelli (a gentle person if there ever was one, who has been well-known to so many of us in the Revere-Winthrop communities literally for decades) allegedly had been chased down in our town center as if by a pack of wild dogs and then set upon — well, just visualizing this terrible scene engendered feelings that made us sickened, angry, and sad on a number of levels.
First and foremost, the actions of this trio of boys is by no means reflective of the values our community. Winthrop in general is a place where violent behavior is the exception, not the rule. Moreover, Winthrop has a long, long history of accepting and embracing those members of our community who have disabilities of all kinds. The alleged actions of these boys are way beyond the norm in our town
Second, although only one of the three youths allegedly punched Mr. Scannelli, surveillance cameras reportedly show that all three youths chased after Mr. Scannelli. If that is the case, we are surprised that all three have not been charged with assault & battery on a joint venture theory. At the least, the other two should be charged with assault, which by definition is behavior that places another in fear of imminent bodily harm. We trust that when the police and district attorney look at all of the facts, they will bring the appropriate charges, if any, including the civil rights violations.
Third, regardless of how the criminal justice system handles this matter, we hope that the school authorities will take appropriate action for a few reasons. If the video shows that all three boys did in fact chase after Mr. Scannelli, it is our view that such thuggish, wild-dog behavior automatically should exclude these youths from the privilege of participation in extra-curricular activities. In addition, alcohol reportedly played a role in the night’s events and if that is true, then a school-imposed punishment doubly is called for. Finally, even assuming for the sake of argument that the two boys who have not been charged considered themselves to be merely bystanders, should their inaction toward their friend’s horrible behavior be condoned and left unpunished? Can anyone seriously suggest that they had no obligation to intervene as their friend was punching out a defenseless 59 year old man whom they had run down? Indeed, in just last week’s Sun-Transcript there was an article abut how the schools are taking the issue of bullying seriously — and this incident is a prime example of bullying behavior being allowed by bystanders.
This brings us to a fourth observation, which is that as much trouble as these boys now find themselves, hopefully they (and other youths who might find themselves in a similar situation) understand how lucky they are that their allegedly brutish behavior did not turn truly tragic. It is not a stretch to imagine that as Mr. Scannelli was being punched, he might have fallen to the pavement, hit his head, and died — which would have been murder. We have been in the newspaper business a long time and have reported over the years on these types of circumstances in which 17 year old youths got into a scuffle that ended up in a conviction for second degree murder — and they then spent the next 20 years of their young lives in state prison.
Lastly, we hope that parents, even more than their teenagers, realize that alcohol is often at the root of awful incidents such as these and that they will do everything they can to ensure that their teens do not drink. As we have written many times in the past, you can take heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and every other illegal substance and add up the “cost” of their illicit use — and in total they will not come close to the number of lives destroyed, families torn apart, and crimes committed directly as a result of alcohol abuse, especially by young people.
So yes, this terrible act of three teenage boys has placed a black mark on our community, as it would no matter where it might have happened. Bad things happen everywhere and we suppose that if we were speaking from the pulpit, we might say that the devil always is lurking, which is why we always must be vigilant to safeguard against evil, even in the best of communities such as ours.