A young girl approached the casket of Michael Mayfield on Thursday and began to scream.
The music in the church had fallen silent, and the hundreds who had turned out to mourn the 17-year-old Mayfield turned their eyes to the child with braids and white floral barrettes. A police officer, moved by the scene, uttered, "Jesus." A man carried the little girl to the exit with tears streaming down his own face.
Mayfield, a college-bound senior at Edmondson-Westside High School who was shot to death in West Baltimore last week, was the eighth teen gunned down this year in Baltimore — and one of three within an eight-day period. The killings have drawn emotional responses in all reaches of the city, as officials pledge to do more to stop youth violence.
"There's a ferocity within this police organization to bring the people who did this to justice," Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said before the two-hour memorial service at Perkins Square Baptist Church.
"It's unacceptable that we are losing our babies. It's unacceptable that we've lost even one life."
Batts joined Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake and a group of local ministers for a moment of silence for the victims' families before the service.
"Too many young dreams, too many promising people are being taken away from us," the Rev. Cleveland T. A. Mason II said during the service.
Mayfield was found April 16 with a gunshot wound to the head inside a minivan in the 2300 block of Lyndhurst Ave. Police have not made an arrest in the killing.
Raysharde Sinclair, 18, a student at Friendship Academy of Science and Technology, was found stabbed to death in a York Road gas station parking lot on April 14. And on Tuesday, police said, 14-year-old Najee Thomas was shot to death inside his Cherry Hill home.
"I'm committed to our young people, like so many other residents here," Rawlings-Blake said. "Now it's time for all of us to come together and rally around them, tell them how much we love them, show them how much we love them and how hard we are willing to work to make sure they get to reach their full potential."
Rawlings-Blake has scheduled a forum with teens May 13. She plans to discuss ways to improve city services and outreach.
Mayfield was a member of the Junior ROTC at Edmondson-Westside, volunteered as a peer mediator and worked on the Inner Harbor Project, which aims to change perceptions about teens causing trouble downtown.
"Michael impacted so many people's lives," Master Sgt. Anthony Felder, who leads the school's Junior ROTC program, said during the funeral service.
Felder said many freshman undergo a transitional period as they adjust to high school, but not Mayfield.
"Michael came already ready," he said.
Mayfield planned to attend Chowan University in Murfreesboro, N.C., on a scholarship this fall.
"We should have had the honor to celebrate his graduation," Edmondson-Westside's principal, Karl E. Perry, said during the service.
twitter.com/janders5Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun