Photo: Participants in the rally to remember Henry Tapia.
The Belmont Select Board will be hosting a special community forum on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. to discuss the death of Henry Tapia who was killed in an alleged road rage incident a week ago on Upland Road.
On Monday, Jan. 25, at Cambridge District Court, the assailant, Dean Kapsalis, saw an additional charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death added to his existing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a civil rights violation.
He was ordered held without bail with his next court appearance on March 1.
Nearly 200 residents and citizens joined Tapia’s friends and family for a rally to celebrate Tapia’s life on Thursday, Jan. 21 in Cushing Square. Kim Haley-Jackson, vice chair of the Belmont Human Rights Commission, Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac, Middlesex DA and Belmont resident Marion Ryan, Select Board’s Adam Dash, State Rep. Rogers, State Sen. Will Brownsberger each spoke to the impact of a race-based killing in a town that at times seems, as one attendee said, “devoid in discussing” the racial issues affecting the country.
“What I want to say to everyone is: Yes, Belmont. You too,” said Haley-Jackson.
“What I want to ask from my town is to think about your everyday actions. You think about your neighbors who don’t look like you. We are a community and not everyone is the same. We don’t all have the same belief system, we don’t all live the same lives but we all live together,” she said.
An agenda has not been published for the community forum. People can attend by going to the Zoom site: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82245770498?pwd=Smt2a3llQUp0OXRQMzhodTJxWFIvdz09 Meeting ID: 822 4577 0498
Tapia’s friends created a GoFundMe page to help his partner, Courtney Morton, and his three children. It has raised $152,800 as of Wednesday morning.
Tapia, a Black/Latino Boston resident living with his partner in Belmont, was killed when Kapsalis, a 54-year-old from Hudson who was living with his girlfriend on Upland Road, hit and dragged the victim after the pair squared off during what is alleged to have been a road rage incident sometime after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
In court Monday, prosecutors from the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said witnesses heard as well as an alarm system recorded as Kapsalis “yelled racial slurs” at Tapia during the confrontation.
“There was a Ring doorbell near the scene of this incident, and it captured the audio of the interaction between the victim and the defendant,” said prosecutor Nicole Allain.
“The defendant can be heard calling the victim a series of derogatory terms, which culminated in his use of the N-word. Seconds later, that’s when the vehicle accelerates. A loud ‘thud’ noise can be heard, and the defendant’s red truck can be seen on video driving [away from] the scene,” said Allain.
MacIsaac’s said the first responding officers found Tapia conscious but in distress, reportedly saying “I can’t breathe.” Tapia was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he died soon after arriving.
“My officers were shocked to hear that he had died,” said MacIsaac. “It has effected the department.”
Stop Dancing Around the Issue says
When will this town begin to call this crime for what it is? It is a racially charged hate crime. If you want to honor the victim, don’t undermine, minimize, and render invisible his race.