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Seven-year-old shooting victim Taylor Hayes is mourned at her funeral

The mourners for Taylor Hayes filed by her satin-lined coffin embroidered with a single word, “Princess.”

They dressed in white and black funeral attire, though a number wore purple, the color her family said was the seven-year-old’s favorite. Hayes, who would have been a second-grader at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, died July 19, two weeks after being shot while sitting in the back seat of a car being driven through Southwest Baltimore.

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The bereaved arrived early at the Empowerment Temple to pay their respects, forming a column that took an hour to pass by the child’s coffin, which was flanked by flowers, stands of balloons and a replica of Elsa, a character from Taylor’s favorite movie, “Frozen.”

Dozens of children, accompanied by their parents and grandparents, helped fill much of the Northwest Baltimore church’s sanctuary.

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“Hopefully the community will come together and change things,” said Latonyetta Perez, one of Taylor’s aunts as she stood outside the church after the services concluded. “I remember Taylor as a lively girl, always dancing, always waking everyone up.”

Surveying the seated mourners, the Rev. Jamal Bryant, the Empowerment Temple’s pastor, said their numbers “honor a girl who had that much influence, … a seven-year-old who should have been out today doing back-to-school shopping.”

Bryant also said, “It’s a sad day for the city of Baltimore.”

He said he hoped that the killing of Taylor Hayes would send a message.

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“This day will mark the end of the stop snitching culture,” Bryant said, before calling out to the assembly: “Enough is enough.”

Taylor Hayes’ homicide is the latest case in which detectives believe an individual has information on who killed a child but is not cooperating.

Baltimore Police say they are still seeking information about the shooting. Two people who police say were in the car with Taylor have been charged with drug and gun-related crimes unrelated to her shooting. They are Darnell Holmes, 33, who was driving the car, and Holmes’ boyfriend Mallik Edison, 20, who investigators say was in the passenger seat.

Police said last week that they located a white Mercedes believed to be connected to the case, but no one has been charged in the shooting.

Taylor’s service included reading Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and a performance of the Youth Praise liturgical dancers. Brittany King sang “Take Me to the King” and Ericka Dudley sang “His Eye Is on The Sparrow.”

At one point the Rev. Willie Ray rose to offer a reflection: “Taylor was a spark and a flower the Lord plucked.”

Ushers distributed a funeral program illustrated with photographs of Taylor. They showed a smiling girl with a bright personality surrounded by her family — her mother, Shanika Hayes; her father, Donte Hayes; brothers, Tre’ Quon Maye and Donte Hayes Jr.; and sisters, Morgan, Trinity and Amy Hayes.

Friday's usual memorial for Taylor Hayes aimed to celebrate "love and life" and encourage group hugs

The Rev. Stephen Lawrence offered the eulogy. “Taylor’s beautiful smile and personality would light up a room,” he said.

He called Saturday “a teaching moment for the city of Baltimore.”

“Set aside the day for Taylor. She is Baltimore’s baby,” he said. “There shall be no shootings and killings today.”

Lawrence, the pastor of the Abundant Harvest Church in Windsor Mill, also spoke of the violence and killings in Baltimore.

“Let me speak to the elephant in the room,” he said. “We can’t put down our guns.”

He spoke of his own childhood spent in public housing, in West Baltimore’s Murphy Homes, telling the mourners, “You can make it!” and lead a crime-free life.

“So long Taylor, we’ll see you on the other side,” the Rev. Lawrence said.

He called for the children to come forward and assemble on the stage.

“The devil will not have our kids,” he said.

A lengthy funeral procession moved on to King Memorial Park in Baltimore County for the burial.

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