DETROIT — Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton gave a rousing eulogy Saturday for a 7-year-old girl killed in a police raid, challenging the hundreds of mourners to take responsibility and help stop a spiral of violence that has swept the city.
Sharpton lobbed some criticism at Detroit police, whose explanation of how Aiyana Stanley-Jones died from a gunshot has been contradicted by the girl’s family. But he mostly offered a broad cultural message to a city where at least three children and an officer have been killed in recent weeks.
“I’d rather tell you to start looking at the man in the mirror. We’ve all done something that contributed to this,” he said referring to Aiyana’s death.
“This is it,” Sharpton said at Second Ebenezer Church. “This child is the breaking point.”
Text continues after gallery …
The congregation stood and applauded Sharpton, the final speaker at a nearly two-hour service that included stirring gospel music and remarks from clergy.
Aiyana was shot in the neck while sleeping on a couch May 16. Police hunting for a murder suspect say an officer’s gun accidentally fired inside the house after he was jostled by, or collided with, her grandmother. A stun grenade was also thrown through a window.
A lawyer for Aiyana’s family, Geoffrey Fieger, is suing and claims the shot was fired from outside the house immediately after the grenade was used. A camera crew working on the A&E reality series “The First 48” accompanied police on the raid.
“Do they throw these flash grenades in everybody’s neighborhood? Would you have gone in Bloomfield Hills and did what you did?” Sharpton said, referring to a wealthy Detroit suburb. “Have you ever heard of putting on a light and calling people to come out?”
Before the service, Aiyana’s coffin was open for people to pay their respects. An arrangement of pink and white roses shaped like a princess crown and bearing her name was on a stand.
A few days earlier, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican running for governor, criticized Sharpton’s visit, saying he was disgusted and accusing the New Yorker of a “drive-by at the scene of a tragedy.”
“I’m disgusted when I look at a 7-year-old baby in a casket,” Sharpton said during his eulogy. “And rather turn to each other, we name-call and ego-tripping and trying to jump in front of a camera rather than stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough.'”
Sharpton said children need guidance and respect and maybe Aiyana’s death will be the catalyst.
Young men carried Aiyana’s white casket on their shoulders out of the church to a horse-led cortege for burial at Trinity Cemetery.
The mourners included Erica Milioni of Adrian, her husband and their seven children. They are trying to move to Detroit to get involved in urban farming and had heard about the tragedy.
“The Bible says weep with those who weep. I thought it was a blessing. I was blessed by the mix of truth and the pursuit of peace,” Milioni said of the service.
Aiyana’s cousin, Rachel Conley, 34, of Eastpointe said she was inspired by Sharpton and plans to start a program called “Aiyana’s Angels” to give young girls a safe place to be, perhaps a few times a month.
Roshell Johnson, 9, was wearing a shirt with a picture of Aiyana, her best friend. The funeral program said she liked Disney’s “Hannah Montana” show and all the Disney princesses.
“Why did the police do it to her?” Roshell said after the service. “I loved her so much. I want her to come back alive.”