Dressed in a white T-shirt that read “ForeverShi” and “ForeverNiya,” Sheree Reid looked into the bright summer sun and prepared to address the dozens of people that gathered in Southwest Baltimore on Sunday.
The names on her shirt referred to her 23-year-old daughter, Shiand Miller, and her 3-year-old granddaughter Shaniya Gilmore, who were gunned down on the same block days earlier. Miller was eight months pregnant; police have charged the unborn baby’s father in the killings.
“This senseless killing needs to stop. And I would never imagine my daughter being on Murder Ink,” Reid said later, referring to an Instagram account that shares information about the city’s homicide victims. “This is devastating, it is a disaster. I would not wish it on anyone.”
For Miller and Shaniya’s family, their killings are another tragedy on top of the stress of the coronavirus pandemic and a nationwide reckoning with police brutality. On Sunday, they came together to mourn.
A memorial decked out with candles, paint and teddy bears was located at the feet of family and friends on the 200 block of Boswell Road. Balloons were placed in the trees just above the memorial site. A “No Shoot Zone” was marked in spray paint at the top of Boswell Road, as is often done at the sites of homicides in the city.
Several family members and friends took their turns sharing memories of Miller and Shaniya.
Shanieka Helndon, Miller’s former guidance counselor and dance coach at the now-closed W.E.B. DuBois High School, said they had a close relationship. She told the crowd about their constant dance practices and routines, and how Miller got progressively better before she transferred to a school in Baltimore County.
Miller performed in an Elvis Presley versus Michael Jackson routine, and she was the best Elvis that Helndon could have had.
“Shiand was a sweetheart, my dancers protected her,” Helndon said, holding back tears.
Baltimore police found their bodies Friday afternoon, while elsewhere in the city people were celebrating Juneteenth and protesting against police brutality. Miller was pregnant with a boy, and the family was planning a baby shower. Shaniya was preparing to start pre-K, the family said.
Devon Sample, the 24-year-old father of the Miller’s unborn son, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing. Sample, who was living with his grandmother, allegedly shot Miller and Shaniya while they were inside of a vehicle on a late Thursday night around 11 p.m., according to charging documents from Baltimore police.
The homicide case remains open, police said Saturday after Sample’s arrest.
The killing of Miller and her daughter struck a chord in a city grappling with an especially violent spring. This year, 152 people have been killed in Baltimore. Twenty-four people have been killed this month, and 39 people in May, which was the deadliest month since 2015.
But Miller’s grandmother Latrice Johnson said her death is more than a number.
“I have so many memories of that girl, I don’t know how I am going to go on without her,” Johnson said to media after the vigil. “She is number 150 to you all but she is number one to me. All I see is those big bright eyes calling me granny.”