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Funeral for 9-year-old slain in gang violence

A Harley-Davidson motorcycle arrived at St. Sabina Church on the South Side Tuesday morning towing a small red casket that contained the body of Tyshawn Lee — a fourth-grader whose name the city of Chicago, and many around the country, have come to know.

The 9-year-old was lured into an Auburn Gresham neighborhood alley and executed by a gunman last week. Police said the slaying was gang retaliation against the boy’s father.

Hundreds filed past the red casket in front of the altar to pray over Tyshawn, who wore a white tuxedo and a red bow tie. A red fedora was placed next to his head, two basketballs near his feet.

Tyshawn’s mother, Karla Lee, kissed her son goodbye on the forehead and nearly collapsed in grief as she cried out “Lord have mercy!”

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel paid his respects, as did U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and actor Nick Cannon.

Four women offering tissue paper to mourners were posted near the casket.

Film director Spike Lee and Chicago Bulls tall man Joakim Noah called the church to offer love and support, said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina.

Tyshawn loved to dress up. Another passion was basketball. He dreamed of joining the NBA, friends and relatives said.

He was tech savvy and once helped his mom set up a DVR. He liked bike riding, getting haircuts, playing video games, eating fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, and going to school.

Dozens of his classmates at Scott Joplin Elementary School attended the funeral. School Principal Alene Mason said Tyshawn was beloved and enjoyed earning gold stars in class.

Davon Gordon, 11, said he was best friends with Tyshawn and brought a card to the church to give the slain boy’s family.

“We liked to play basketball and get on the swings. I’m going to miss him,” Gordon said.

The strongest words came during a fiery eulogy delivered by Pfleger.

“There are some who like to stand up and say that this is an act of God,” Pfleger said. “This is not an act of God. This is the face and reality of evil.”

Pfleger said Tyshawn was “a victim of a society that has lost its conscience.” He added, “We’ve lost our conscience, Chicago.”

Pfleger implored the community to muster up courage and turn in gunmen who terrorize the community.

“We must, Chicago, find the killer of Tyshawn,” he said.

“There’s consequences when you make our children targets of some murdering coward. And that’s what you are when you hurt children: You’re a coward. You’re a punk,” Pfleger said.

Attendees at the packed service were handed color-printed programs that contained dozens of pictures of Tyshawn, including ones of the boy in a cap and gown on graduation day, kissing his mother on the cheek, getting kissed on the cheek by his mother and the two making funny faces.

The cover of the program featured a Sponge Bob Square Pants motif.

White doves were released into the sky in front of the church as Tyshawn’s casket left the building.

Pfleger said earlier this week that more than $50,000 in reward money had been collected for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for Tyshawn’s death.

<small><strong> Davon Gordon was Tyshawn Lee’s friends. They liked to play on the swings, he said. Davon was at the funeral with his aunt, Angela Sherrod. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times</strong></small>
Davon Gordon was Tyshawn Lee’s friends. They liked to play on the swings, he said. Davon was at the funeral with his aunt, Angela Sherrod. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
<small><strong> Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets Father Michael Pfleger outside the funeral for Tyshawn Lee at St. Sabina Church. | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times</strong></small>
Mayor Rahm Emanuel greets Father Michael Pfleger outside the funeral for Tyshawn Lee at St. Sabina Church. | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times
<small><strong> The casket for Tyshawn Lee is carried into St. Sabina Church. | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times</strong></small>
The casket for Tyshawn Lee is carried into St. Sabina Church. | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times
The trailer carrying Tyshawn Lee’s casket was towed to St. Sabina Church by a motorcycle. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
The trailer carrying Tyshawn Lee’s casket was towed to St. Sabina Church by a motorcycle. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
<small><strong>Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn Lee’s father wrote “Love You My Boy” at the memorial where his son was killed. | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times</strong></small>
Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn Lee’s father wrote “Love You My Boy” at the memorial where his son was killed. | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times
<small><strong> Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn Lee’s father, at the memorial where his son was killed. |Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times</strong></small>
Pierre Stokes, Tyshawn Lee’s father, at the memorial where his son was killed. |Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times
A woman stops to pray at a memorial to Tyshawn Lee the day after the fourth-grader was gunned down.
A woman stops to pray at the memorial to Tyshawn Lee the day after the fourth-grader was gunned down. | Stefano Esposito
Sun-Times files