Gun violence awareness advocate

Amy Innarelli

Following the murder of her son last year, Amy Innarelli has been working to bring awareness of inner-city gun violence and help young people find outlets to use their time in positive and productive ways. (Courtesy photo)

It was the call every parent dreads: Your child isn’t coming home.

Amy Innarelli got such a call on Feb. 19, 2020.

Her 22-year-old son Chandler was shot while sitting in a car just off Manchester’s Union Street.

He was waiting to pick up his infant son Jahmel and his girlfriend to visit his sister Ava-Loren. His murder remains unsolved.

Today, Innarelli works neighborhoods, posts flyers, hangs banners and puts events together, reflecting what Roca — a Chelsea, Mass.-based nonprofit she greatly admires — says in its mission statement: “to be a relentless force in disrupting incarceration, poverty and racism by engaging young adults.”

Innarelli herself is “a relentless force.” A “Justice for Chandler” Facebook page has 10,000 followers. Chandler’s Ball 3on3 Basketball Tournament recently saw 26 teams competing at a Manchester park. All proceeds went to maintenance of and a second bench for the inner-city court. Next up is the second annual Chandler’s Ride on Sept. 25. Last year, bikers raised $13,000 for Jahmel’s trust fund.

Q. I’m sorry for your family’s loss. How are you coping?

A. For me, I have an extremely vast support system. I’m very fortunate. I do have a grief therapist but, no offense to my therapist, the Justice for Chandler Facebook page has had more of a positive effect on me. People being supportive and hearing me out has helped a lot. I also belong to Compassionate Friends, a local support group.

Q. In researching the considerable amount of print and video online, it’s obvious that Chandler had a wide reach in the Manchester community.

A. Chandler was the poster boy for diversity. People who I don’t know reach out all the time. One person wanted me to know how much Chandler meant to the Sudanese community. People come up to me when I’m posting flyers and often tell me stories of Chandler taking a child under his wing. We were going out to dinner one time, and Chandler asked if he could bring a friend. One kid turned into two and then turned into five.

Q. Chandler’s murder remains unsolved. What positive things can people say to you that help?

A. It’s a simple thing, but I truly embraced it: Be kind to yourself. I stopped working out and started eating horribly. I would really be down on myself on top of everything else, but I said, ‘No.’ I’m just going to feel it and own it and save it for another day. For people to talk about Chandler helps. Chandler had a great smile, and he loved to laugh. He was amazing with children and I loved to watch him.

Q. Justice for Chandler has both a wide online and street presence. How have you converted your professional skills as director of operations for Monroe Staffing to your mission?

A. Ultimately, I’ve always been connected within the community. When I was hired by Monroe Staffing, I joked that I could go from cocktail party to keg party without a wardrobe change. I’m very resourceful. I’m an ops girl through and through.

Q. What would justice look like or feel like to you?

A. To find whoever did this and to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. And that Chandler’s murder wasn’t solely in vain. That something good comes from my heartbreak. That there’s an increased awareness of the epidemic of violence within our community.

Q. You’re forming a nonprofit.

A. It’s Chandler’s Angels Initiative, after his monogram, C.A.I., Chandler Adam Innarelli. The mission is to bring heightened awareness of inner-city gun violence and help provide outlets and avenues for youth to utilize their time in positive and productive ways while teaching the responsibility and lethality of having firearms.

My goal is to partner with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club and the Manchester Police Department. I’ve talked with Chief Aldenberg with the idea of presenting programs together dealing with gun violence awareness and safety. I want to use programs such as the Choose Love Movement founded by Scarlett Lewis, who lost her son Jesse in the Newtown shooting. It’s a school-based life span curriculum with a social and emotional learning platform that not only teaches students the life skills essential to happiness and success, but also fosters a school culture that reduces violence from the inside out.

Q. You’ve stayed out of the guns rights vs. gun law changes forum.

A. I’m not affiliated with any anti-gun movement, only because the moment the words “gun violence” are uttered, it seems that liberal organizations latch on to that in an effort to support their own agenda.

Q. Is it fair to say, then, that part of your mission is anti-gun violence, not anti-gun?

A. Yes. Definitely.