Friday was a day the friends and family of Kevin Miller said they never thought would happen.
But instead of using the murdered 13-year-old’s funeral as a time for sorrow, those who came to mourn the boy said they would remember his life by condemning the youth violence that took his life.
Hundreds gathered at Miller’s longtime church, New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Jamaica, to pay final respects to the Campus Magnet High School student who was killed by a stray bullet two weeks ago. Miller was not involved with youth gangs, according to his family, and worked hard not only in school but also in various community groups, such as the church’s Youth Team ministry, Bible studiesand youth basketball leagues.
“He was sweet, he was the type who would give and give and not ask for something back,” said Sadeaia Thomas, 14, who attended PS/MS 124 with Miller for elementary and middle school.
Miller, who was only at the Cambria Heights high school for a month, was going to get some food after school at a McDonald’s at Springfield and Linden boulevards Oct. 2 when he was shot by a stray bullet allegedly fired by two reputed teenage Crips members on the other side of the street, authorities said.
“There are some things in life that are unacceptable to us .... This is one of them,” Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott told mourners. “We should never have to bury our young.”
Miller’s casket was covered with several wreaths of flowers that reflected the boy’s passions, including one with a New York Yankees’ logo and another made in the shape of a white Air Jordan sneaker. Inside the casket was the boy’s prized basketball he would play with after school with his friends.
Pictures of Miller, born Dec. 24, 1995, from the time he was a baby all the way up to his graduation from middle school, appeared in a slide show as clergy members reassured the teen’s family he is in a better place.
“God gave you a great gift on Christmas, but God gave Kevin a greater gift: the love of Jesus Christ,” said the Rev. John Erskine.
Miller is survived by his parents, Kevin Sr. and Donna Greaves; stepfather, Benjamin Greaves; three brothers; grandparents; and several aunts, uncles and cousins. Family members who made remarks during the service said they were grateful for the outpouring of support.
Bette Hood, Miller’s grandmother, said she and her fellow kin never imagined they would have to have this funeral, but the community was helpingto heal the pain.
“I want to thank everyone for your cards and concern,” she said.
Nnonso Ekwegbalu, 16, of Springfield Gardens, and Gregory Calas, 18, of St. Albans, were allegedly fighting rival Bloods members at the other side of the street and the two opened fire on their enemies, according to the Queens district attorney.
The shots missed the targets, fatally hitting Miller in the head and striking the leg of an unidentified teen, who was recuperating from his injuries, according to DA Richard Brown. Both suspected shooters have been arrested and have been arraigned on murder charges, Brown said.
Neither Miller nor the other victim were gang members or involved with the fight that sparked the shooting, according to the DA.
In a passionate sermon, Miller’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Calvin Rice, urged mourners to use the boy’s murder as a catalyst for change. He told the congregation, which included police officials, representatives of elected officials and students and teachers from Campus Magnet, to denounce teenage gangs, violent media and other factors that have led to shootings like this one.
“It takes more than a village. It takes a district, it takes a city, it take a borough,” he told a cheering congregation.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2009 Community News Group
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