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200 mourn Brandon Bethea

Although Brandon Bethea's young life was cut short by a stray bullet, her family and community residents vowed to honor her death by working hard to stop the violence that has been plaguing their neighborhood.

More than 200 of the 15-year-old's friends and family gathered at Gilmore's Funeral home in St. Albans last Thursday to pay their last respects to the slain teen. As mourners stood near her open white casket, they each urged the community to unite and work for peace.

"Only by coming together can we put a stop to this," said Pastor Evans, Brandon's minister.

The girl was at a late night party at the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway with some friends May 17 when she was struck by a stray bullet while outside in the courtyard, police said. Two days later, Tyrese Johnson, 16, was killed near 10-75 Beach 21st St. by a gunshot wound, according to police.

No suspects had been arrested in connection with the shootings as of press time Tuesday night and the investigations were ongoing.

Brandon's family, who live in Jamaica, said they had moved out of the housing project more than a year ago to escape the escalating violence. Many of the girl's friends from Redfern, some of whom traveled to the Linden Boulevard funeral in cabs and dollar vans, broke down inside the chapel as they prayed and reminisced about their friend.

"The angels carry her blessed soul home to heavenly peace," said Monique Daly who read a poem for her friend.

As pallbearers carried her casket into the hearse, the partly cloudy skies turned dark gray and poured rain onto the funeral party. Despite their sadness over her loss, Brandon's loved ones said they would always keep her memory alive in their hearts.

"If she wasn't a lovely baby, there wouldn't have been so many people here," said a family friend who did not give her name.

Anyone with information on Brandon's shooting is urged to call Crimestoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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