Family and friends on Tuesday said their final goodbyes to Tyshawn Lee, the 9-year-old Chicago boy whose slaying has sparked an uproar nationwide, while the search for the young boy's killer continues.
Hundreds flocked to St. Sabina Church at 1210 W. 78th Pl. to attend memorial services for Tyshawn, who was gunned down in what police say was a targeted, gang-related shooting on Chicago's South Side.
Emotional supporters filled the pews, the aisles and the room as Father Michael Pfleger gave an impassioned speech.
"Our children deserve to walk the streets," he said. "Tyshawn was not in the wrong place, the murderer, the assassin was in the wrong place. We must find the killer of Tyshawn."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among the mourners who packed the church to remember the young boy who loved to play basketball and video games and dreamed of one day being in the NBA.
"Tyshawn had too much life in him... to be defined by an act of evil," Pfleger said. "Tyshawn was funny. Tyshawn loved to go to school... and he was loved by his classmates."
The somber service filled with calls to action to find Tyshawn's killer ended with a roaring applause.
"Tyshawn you touched the United States of America," Pfleger said.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy described Tyshawn’s death as the most "abhorrent, cowardly, unfathomable crime" he's witnessed in 35 years of policing.
Tyshawn, a fourth grader at Scott Joplin School, was shot in the head and back last Monday in an alley near his grandmother's home on the city's South Side. Police said he was lured from a nearby park into the alley, where he was shot multiple times.
Investigators said the shooting appears to be gang-related.
McCarthy, who claimed the boy's father has gang ties and is not cooperating in the investigation, said police have identified the two gangs and people allegedly involved in the shooting, but can't prove "who did what."
"Everybody is sick; everybody is disgusted," he said.
The child's father, Pierre Stokes, denied authorities' claims and said he's "not the gang-banger type."
In the days after the shooting, a memorial for the boy featuring stuffed animals, candles and balloons sprouted in the alley where he was killed, but later burned down, along with a garage, in an accidental blaze sparked by one of the candles.
Police have executed several search warrants in the investigation, but have not released details of their findings.
A "person of interest" turned himself in to police Wednesday for questioning but was released between late Wednesday and early Thursday without charges.
Authorities have pleaded with area residents for any information that will help lead to an arrest, acknowledging many residents are fearful of being targeted for speaking out.
"It takes courage to do the right thing sometimes, and at the end of the day, when good people stand up we’re going to win," McCarthy said. "We're going to solve this crime with or without the assistance of god knows who."
At least $35,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in connection with the boy's death.
Pfleger, who is known for his anti-violence activism, said he would pay money out of his own pocket to help anyone who shares information about the case move away from Chicago.
"A baby was executed," Pfleger said. "We have gone to a new low that's removed what used to be some codes, some barriers, some lines that used to be drawn in the community, some things in our city that were not acceptable."