Photo: Protests over the murder of Henry Tapia in January 2021
A Middlesex County jury on Monday found Hudson resident Dean Kapsalis guilty of the racially-motivated murder of Henry Tapia during a road rage incident on Upland Road in Belmont more than two years ago, according to a press release from Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.
Kapsalis, 56, was convicted of shouting a racial insult at Tapia, a 34-year-old man of color, before hitting him with a Dodge Dakota truck, running him over and killing him. While a Boston resident, Tapia was living with his partner and son in Belmont.
The jury’s verdict, announced on Monday, May 1 after two weeks of testimony and three days of deliberation, found Kapsalis guilty of second degree murder, violation of constitutional rights causing serious bodily injury, assault and battery by means of dangerous weapon (motor vehicle) causing serious bodily injury, and leaving the scene after causing injury.
Kapsalis will be held without bail until sentencing by Associate Justice of the Superior Court David Deakin on June 27, 2023.
“The murder of Henry Tapia is a senseless tragedy fueled by hate and anger. The fact that some of the last words Henry Tapia heard were a horrific racial insult meant to intimidate and threaten him based on the color of his skin is something we cannot tolerate,” said Ryan at a press conference with Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac after the verdict was rendered. Tapia’s death lead to local protests and ongoing conversations on racial bias in Belmont.
On Jan. 19, 2021, around 4:22 p.m., Belmont Police received a 911 call reporting that a man had been struck by a car in the area of 39-45 Upland Road. Police immediately responded and located Tapia conscious but suffering from life-threatening injuries. First responders provided emergency assistance until Belmont Rescue arrived on the scene. Tapia was transported from the scene to Massachusetts General Hospital where he later died from his injuries.
The subsequent investigation by Belmont and State Police revealed Kapsalis and Tapia had engaged in a verbal altercation on Upland Road. That argument wound down but as Tapia began to walk back toward his car, Kapsalis hurled a racial slur at him and then got into his pickup truck and drove it at Tapia, striking him and dragging him a short distance before Kapsalis fled the scene. He later turned himself in to police. At trial, the defense argued Tapia’s death was an accident.
“What is significant about today’s verdict is that when we have incidents in Middlesex County motivated by bigotry and racism, that hatred will not be treated as a background fact. It will be charged and prosecuted separately. Although nothing that happens in Court can return Mr. Tapia to his grieving family, today’s convictions send a strong signal that those who commit hate fueled violence in this county will be held fully accountable,” said Ryan.