BELMONT, MASS. (WHDH) – Hundreds of grief-stricken residents and heartbroken family members gathered in Belmont for a vigil on Thursday night to remember a beloved father who was allegedly berated with racial slurs before another man fatally struck and dragged him with a pickup truck during an apparent road rage incident earlier this week.
“You can see he has a huge family everybody is here because they love him,” family friend Sarah Bilodeau said.
Henry Tapia, 35, of Boston, died at Massachusetts General Hospital after 54-year-old Dean Kapsalis, of Hudson, drove his red Dodge Dakota at Tapia, striking him with the driver’s side of his vehicle and dragging him a short distance, according to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan and Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac.
Tapia, a Black father of three, was reportedly visiting Belmont at the time of the incident.
“Henry is a beloved father to his children and we are deeply, deeply saddened by his loss,” said Bilodeau, who organized the vigil in Cushing Square. “If we could have Henry back we know that he would have his son Eli in his arm and he’d be hanging out with Camden.”
Officers responding to a report of a person who had been struck by a car in the area of Upland Road in Belmont around 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday found Tapia suffering from life-threatening injuries, Ryan and MacIsaac said.
Kapsalis was arraigned Wednesday in Cambridge District Court on charges including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a civil rights violation causing injury, and leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury in connection with Tapia’s death.
“We cannot and will not tolerate behavior that is rooted in racial bias and meant to discriminate,” Ryan said during a news conference.
Witnesses reportedly told investigators that they heard the two men arguing before Tapia was struck by the truck.
“I just heard a screech and a thud, and my daughter screaming,” local resident Brian Dawe recalled. “I looked out the window and I saw my daughter and my son-in-law trying to help this man who was lying on the ground.”
Kapsalis is said to have surrendered to police about 30 minutes after the alleged incident.
He is being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing on Jan. 25.
State troopers assigned to Ryan’s office are assisting Belmont police with an investigation.
His loved ones said they are committed to keeping Tapia’s memory alive.
“What we are focused on is the loss and we don’t want to lose another life to racial violence,” Bilodeau said.
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