In the end, Monae Turnage, lying in a casket with a white beaded gown and purple bangle bracelets, could be a catalyst for change in her East Baltimore neighborhood, her pastor told a crowd of roughly 700 at her funeral Saturday.
The Rev. Donte L. Hickman St., pastor of Southern Baptist Church, said he hoped Monae's killing would spur East Baltimore to return to its roots — to again become a place where neighbors sit on porches, watch over children, hold their hands when they cross the street and make sure they go to school
"If you want something different, you've got to expect something different," Hickman said in a booming voice.
Two of Monae's friends, ages 12 and 13, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in her death March 3. The boys were playing with a .22-caliber rifle when Monae, 13, was shot once in the chest, police said.
The rifle was found in the car of an off-duty police officer, who was suspended after the shooting. The officer, who has not been charged with a crime, has been identified by law enforcement sources as John A. Ward, 32.
On Saturday, every pew of Monae's church was packed with family, friends, teachers, classmates and other well-wishers. Dignitaries also attended, including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, several City Council members and the Eastern District police commander, Maj. Melvin T. Russell.
Monae's fifth-grade teacher at Harford Heights Elementary School, Cynthia Harris, said afterward that Monae had perfect attendance and good grades.
"She was very jubilant," Harris said. "She was very lovable. She was a good role model."
Monae's friends, Breona Chase, 13, and Shakeira Brown, 14, said the funeral was hard for them, but they wanted to be there to see off their friend, who they said gave good advice and showed a caring spirit.
The service started out somberly as people wept and ushers passed around boxes of tissues. A family hour before the service featured streaming pictures of Monae on two big projectors and dancers in flowing purple-and-teal dresses.
By the end of the service, some churchgoers were dancing in the aisles, waving their arms and shouting "Amen" as the pastor said he could imagine Monae smiling on the group from heaven.
A cousin of Monae's, the Rev. Robin Grant of Parkville, was among those dancing in an aisle.
"This was a celebration of life and a celebration of new life," Grant said.
Major Russell said he wasn't sure if he ever met Monae as he walked the neighborhood streets. But he said could tell by pictures of her "golden smile" that she was special.
"We need to wake up," Russell said. "We will make our community safer. We will get rid of guns. We will get rid of the drugs.
"We will get rid of darkness and a light will shine."