An hour before the memorial service at First Apostolic Faith Church on Monday, a woman walked down the center aisle and stared into the 3-foot white casket surrounded by white flowers. She spent a full minute, head slightly cocked, before she wheeled and walked back, angrily shaking her head.
Another woman walked up and looked at the body of Carter Scott, the 1-year-old killed in a double shooting May 24. She mumbled something and took a seat in the third row. A tall teen in a white chef's coat followed with three young women. But he stopped suddenly and turned around before he could glimpse the child's face. He motioned to the women that he could not look into the open casket.
Mourners saw Carter lying with his eyes closed, hair carefully braided, striped tie tucked in a cream-colored suit and tiny feet enclosed in tiny brown shoes. What many couldn't see was a reason.
Family and clergy urged the close to 200 people who attended his memorial service to trust that God knew why Carter died.
"He doesn't make any mistakes in anything that he does," the boy's grandmother, Evelyn White, said.
Carter Scott was killed after a bullet pierced his leg in the parking lot of a Cherry Hill apartment complex during a violent Memorial Day weekend. Baltimore police said three gunmen in latex gloves emptied at least 16 rounds into the red Chevrolet that was carrying the boy and his father, Rashaw Scott, 22, who was also shot but survived after surgery at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Scott has indicated to investigators that the shooting was a setup, according to court records, and police have charged two men with first-degree murder: Eddie Tarver, 20, and Cornell Harvey, 26. Police said they lured Scott and his son into an ambush.
Neither has a lawyer listed in court records. Both have preliminary hearings scheduled for June 21.
Carter is Baltimore's youngest shooting victim in several years, and the mayor and police commissioner have pledged to renew efforts against violent offenders in the aftermath of his killing.
Born Carter Omar Scott Jan. 2, 2012, his family called him "ChinaBoy," "Whoopdie," "Carte," "Fatboy" and "Kramer." He had an unusual laugh and was raised in a charismatic Christian church. He often said "Hallelujah" or broke out into "Jesus Loves Me," his family members said.
When he wasn't singing that, he repeated the lyrics to the famous song from "Barney & Friends."
"I love you, You love me, We're a happy family," White recited Monday at the service.
Carter sometimes pretended he was reading by mumbling and dragging his finger across a page. He treated kitchen pots as bongos and seized every opportunity to grab the church tambourine. Don't you dare steal his sour cream and onion potato chips, one relative warned.
Whenever Carter saw a pillow on the floor, he'd run over and act like he was asleep.
"You lived, you saw angels, you spoke in tongues, yes you loved us and we loved you," White said. "You were special. You are special."
In the pews, teens leaned against each other while a woman rocked back and forth in a T-shirt bearing ironed-on pictures of Carter and his name on the back. One woman, visibly upset, ran out during the middle of the service. Two people wearing Maryland Shock Trauma Center ID badges sat together quietly in the back.
The service started solemnly but grew into a raucous religious revival. Alex Carrington Jr. crooned softly in a capella, "He has his hands on you," before an organ ushered in the second verse. The Rev. Janice Nelson prayed loudly for Carter's mother, Christine White, and thanked God that Carter "was resting in your bosom." Ministers and family members linked Carter's learning of the "ABCs" to a lesson on how "attitude and behavior can lead to consequences."
One minister's shouts and proclamations to "Praise him" led a woman to dance in front of Carter's casket. Singer Angel Brown started "His Eye is on the Sparrow" before she stumbled midway through, overcome by emotion. People told her, "It's all right." She regained her composure and finished.
The casket was closed and slowly wheeled up the center aisle as the service concluded, rolling past a guest registry with pages decorated by the drawings of three little haloed baby birds in a nest and into a white hearse with a red top and oval windows etched with the words "God is Love."
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