PAWTUCKET — The St. Raphael Academy community is rallying around one of their own after a freshman was wounded in a tragic shooting last week that also killed her father, a well-known and respected Little League coach and active member of St. Mary Parish and its school board in Cranston.
Olivia May, 15, a freshman at St. Ray’s, was wounded May 23 when the suspect, a neighbor, entered her family’s property in Johnston around 7:30 a.m. and shot and killed her father, Thomas May, 44, in the garage of their home, Johnston Police Chief Mark Vieira said in a May 25 press conference.
The chief said an officer discovered Olivia, who had been shot and wounded, in the front yard as the suspect was driving away from the scene.
The police had returned to the scene that morning to serve a no trespass order to neighbor James Harrison, 52, after there was no response when they visited the home around midnight the night before. Vieira said a possible incident that night at the May home may be connected to the suspect returning the following morning.
Police later discovered that Harrison’s mother, Janet Harrison, 83, had also been killed in the home she shared with her son in the neighborhood.
Bishop Richard G. Henning, on May 25, before Olivia May’s name had been released by authorities, issued a prayerful message in response to the shooting.
“Grieving to hear of unjust acts of wanton violence, I wish to pledge the solidarity of the Diocese of Providence with our wounded brothers and sisters. These cruel acts against members of two families defy explanation and challenge us to reflect on the fragility and sanctity of human life. This is also a moment that summons us to cry out to the Lord Who is our “‘stronghold in times of trouble’” (Ps. 9:9),” Bishop Henning said in his message.
The bishop also offered prayers for the repose of the souls of Janet Harrison and Thomas May.
“Thomas May was a loving father to his children and a faithful and generous servant to his parish school and to the wider community. He will be missed by all,” Bishop Henning said, referring to St. Mary Church and school in Cranston where the May family have been involved.
“We pray for physical and emotional healing for the survivor and all who love her. We pray for the communities of Cranston and Johnston and for the school communities affected by this tragedy.”
Bishop Henning also offered his prayers for the police officers who stopped the rampage, when Harrison was later pursued by officers to the Johnston-Cranston line, where Harrison was shot and killed by police during a standoff.
“We pray too for the tortured soul who committed these terrible acts. May God have mercy on his soul.”
At St. Raphael Academy, where Olivia is a student athlete, the school community is hosting a fundraising page for the May family on its website: www.saintrays.org/give/may-family-fund.
“Olivia’s favorite color is pink, so we went with a Pink Out. The student body was very supportive of it and we had a record-setting amount of money raised,” said St. Raphael Principal Dan Richard, of the $5,000 raised through the dress down day.
Richard said he is also very appreciative of the efforts of former St. Raphael teacher Dave Estes, who now serves as principal of The Prout School, who plans to host a dress down day there to help raise funds for the May family.
The Rhode Island Interscholastic League and many other schools’ sports teams and school administrations have also reached out to St. Ray’s in support of not only the May family but of Olivia’s soccer teammates and other school athletes as well.
Richard said Friday that as Olivia’s medical condition has improved in the hospital, the spirit of the student body has also been lifted.
“Wednesday and Thursday were really tough for the school community, as there was some uncertainty with everything that had occurred,” Richard said.
The night before the shooting Olivia was honored with the school’s Outstanding Service Award for all the community service hours she logged this year over and above the amount required of all students.
“She’s very well-regarded and well-respected,” Richard said. “Not only is she a student athlete, she’s also a great member of the Saints community.”
Richard said that if anyone would like to help the family, there is also a link on the main page of the Saint Raphael Academy website to be able to provide resources to the May family, which is going through a very challenging time.
“We really appreciate the diocese, including Bishop Henning, reaching out to the school,” said Richard, who is especially grateful for Bishop Henning’s prayerful statement on the tragic events.
“It was very touching for us to receive and we appreciate that.”
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