Slain gay security guard 'had little, and gave a lot'

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday January 25, 2023
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Gavin Boston, who was killed January 4, was remembered by friends as a caring person. Photo: Courtesy Castle Russell
Gavin Boston, who was killed January 4, was remembered by friends as a caring person. Photo: Courtesy Castle Russell

The friend of a gay Native American security guard who was shot and killed in San Francisco's Japantown earlier this month remembered him as someone who "was always striving to make his dreams come true, and summoned the dreams of others without judgment."

The life of 40-year-old Gavin Boston was tragically cut short January 4 just after 5 p.m. at 1581 Webster Street in Japantown. His longtime friend Castle Russell, a nonbinary lesbian, reached out to the Bay Area Reporter to share more about who Boston was because they didn't like people making comments on social media sharing "reactionary" sentiments.

San Francisco police arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection with Boston's death who was charged with suspicion of murder. His name has not been released, because of his age. He pleaded not guilty on January 9. A 14-year-old who did not appear in court that day was arrested on suspicion of accessory to murder.

Police said the teenagers were in a dispute with Boston outside a collectibles shop in Japantown when the guard was fatally shot, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

While Boston was gay and Native American, "he was also straight passing and white passing, and as a result some people on the internet have used his death to fortify their racist and classist beliefs," according to Russell.

The two met in Orange County "before either of us moved to San Francisco," Russell said, which was in early 2009.

"Gavin came up to San Francisco because he — and I can't speak entirely for him — but it was my understanding that he grew up in Northern California and left home at a very young age, like 15, to come to San Francisco to get away from a homophobic small town," Russell said. "After that he traveled around and ended up in Orange County. Coming back to SF was like a homecoming for him."

According to an essay of memories written by Russell's spouse, Hannah Russell Laws, who is also nonbinary, Boston was born February 7, 1982.

"His childhood was complicated," Russell Laws stated. "Much the youngest of a family of six, he was born to a working-class white mother and a Native American wanderer — while the husband that would help raise him languished in prison. He came out as gay as a young teenager in the 1990s, in a religious household, in a small town."

Russell said that the two met at a coffee shop in Orange County, and they got along initially because "he was very protective of me."

"There were lots of different kinds of people who went there to hang out and there were some people there who weren't super trustworthy and he saw me as a lost kid," Russell said. "He always made sure I had something to eat and, you know, looking out for me. He respected what I had to say even though he was older than me. He encouraged me to say what was on my mind."

The two loved movies and museums, Russell said. It irritated them that strangers assumed the two were a couple even though they were both queer.

For a brief time, Boston went to live in Paradise, in Butte County, and was there "when it burned down in 2018" during the Camp Fire, recalled Russell. He went there to take care of his sister's dogs and "because he wanted to get out of the city for a while and be in nature. Sharing art and being outside were the ties that bind with everyone," Russell said.

"Under a blackened sky, he would drive down the only road out-of-town, coagulated with smoke and traffic, flanked by exploding gas pumps, with his sister's two terrified dogs barking in the backseat," the essay stated about Boston's experience surviving the Paradise fire. "And he would survive."

Russell learned their friend had died from Boston's roommate, who sent a mass text message to friends.

"He was just a purely creative person," they said. "He created the life he wanted and was always striving to make his dreams come true, and summoned the dreams of others without judgment or trying to make you fit into what he thought. ... He could be very stubborn, because he wanted you to stick to your dream."

Gavin Boston. Photo: Courtesy Castle Russell  

Russell Laws wrote in the essay that Boston "had little, and gave a lot."

"At any one time, Gavin owned only four shirts, two pairs of pants, and two pairs of shoes," the essay stated. "He assigned value to people and nature, but never to things. He was incredibly generous, with friends, family, and strangers alike. Instinctively compassionate and nurturing, Gavin especially loved giving his time towards helping kids, and kids truly loved him right back."

Regarding the criminal case, since a minor can only be charged as an adult once they reach 16, as per state law, proceedings are taking place in juvenile court. The San Francisco Public Defender's office accused the San Francisco District Attorney's office of leaking information to the media, and asked the judge to order the prosecutor's office to preserve all communication about the case, the Chronicle reported.

"The Public Defender's office will be exploring all avenues for holding the District Attorney's office accountable for violating state law," the office stated. The public defender's office also requested a gag order on future hearings regarding the minors.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Roger Chan ordered that the 15-year-old boy remain in custody.

The District Attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment for this report regarding the status of the suspects, or regarding the allegations by the public defender's office.

Boston had only been working as a security guard at the location of his death for two months, Russell said.

"I just needed to do what I could to try to make sure the real Gavin is out there," Russell said.

To read Hannah Russell Laws' essay on Mr. Boston, click here.

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