(CHICAGO) — A Harley-Davidson motorcycle stopped in front of Chicago’s St. Sabina’s Church Tuesday morning, pulling behind it the casket of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, one of the city’s youngest crime victims who police say was “executed” a week ago.
A photo of Tyshawn dressed in a gray vest with a light blue shirt and tie has made its way around the country, a reminder of the young life taken during an alleged gang-related shooting.
The photo Tuesday flanked the casket of the young boy inside the church, where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been earlier in the day, and where hundreds of mourners, including the boy’s family and friends, politicians and senators, and actor Nick Cannon, sought to honor the boy’s life.
“We got to confront failed education systems, the lack of options and opportunities. We’ve got to confront racism,” St. Sabina’s pastor, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, said during the eulogy. “We’ve got to have the courage to look at the broken bridge between law enforcement and community; we’ve got to confront the system that is raping the poor in America and in Illinois.”
Three more photos of Tyshawn stood close to the pulpit, showing the mourners the child’s love for school and basketball. A large painting of Jesus stretching his hands to the congregation hung over the altar and Tyshawn’s small casket.
The Catholic church where the funeral took place is mere blocks from the spot where police say Tyshawn was “lured” into an alley and “executed” the afternoon of Nov. 2 in the city’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, allegedly for his father’s gang ties. Several bullets pierced the boy’s body at close range, police said, as attendees were reminded at the service.
The Rev. Pfleger, who has long been an outspoken anti-violence activist in the city, condemned the city’s violence and told those in attendance the South Side neighborhoods of Chicago have been left behind.
Tyshawn is just one of several children caught in shootings in Chicago. The same week of Tyshawn’s slaying, four teenagers were injured and another one was killed in three different shootings across the city’s South Side, according to police. Only one arrest has been made in connection to the cases. The person who shot Tyshawn is still on the loose.
While police reports show a decrease in overall crime, there have been 2,061 reported shootings in Chicago this year, up 18 percent from this time in 2014.
At Tyshawn’s funeral, Pfleger talked about the fourth grader’s love of basketball, video games and technology; and his dream of playing in the NBA. The boy was carrying a basketball when he was killed.
To a standing ovation, he said Tyshawn was now playing in a different league. Among his team members: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and the girls killed in the Alabama church fire in 1963.
“Tyshawn, step on the new court that’s been prepared for you. It’s the court that’s been paved in you, and, here, see the tears of all the fans standing,” he said. “Step up into court. Play ball, play ball, play ball. This ain’t the end; we’ll see you in the playoffs.”
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