A viewing was held for Taylor Hayes, a 7-year-old girl who was fatally shot while riding in the back seat of a car in Southwest Baltimore. (Jay Reed / Baltimore Sun video)
The casket was purple and just 4-and-a-half feet long. Inside lay Taylor Hayes, forever 7 years old.
Hundreds of mourners filed past her body during a viewing Friday evening and paid tribute to one of Baltimore’s youngest homicide victims.
Taylor was shot earlier this month while riding through Southwest Baltimore in the back seat of a car. She fought for two weeks before dying July 19.
“I just ask God, ‘Why did it have to be her time at 7 years old?” said her cousin, Jaliseah Johnson. “I just ask God that Baltimore please put the guns down.”
Taylor had recently finished the first grade at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, and was excited to be moving up to second grade. While she lay in a hospital bed, teachers and staff kept vigil alongside her family.
Her classmates were among the dozens of children at the funeral home Friday, the situation forcing some of them to see a casket for the first time.
Within a five block radius of Connexion Point Church in Edmonson Village, six people have been shot to death this year, including 7-year-old Taylor Hayes, who was struck in the back while riding in the back seat of a Honda Accord on July 5.
The Rev. Marcia Bowyer-Barron is a volunteer at the school who often played with Taylor.
“She was a happy, jovial, always smiling little girl,” she said. “This little girl was always dancing. I loved being around her.”
The city school board held a moment of silence for Taylor at a recent meeting. She was recalled as an “attentive student” who was “respectful, kindhearted and a good friend to her classmates.”
Her favorite color was purple, her favorite movie “Frozen.” Balloon sculptures depicting characters from the Disney movie stood on either side of the girl’s body.
“This was an energetic and loving child who touched a lot of people in her short seven years on Earth,” said Catalina Byrd, a spokeswoman for Taylor’s family.
While police have arrested the woman they believe was driving the Honda, they have not yet named a suspect in Taylor’s killing.
“The family did make an ask for anyone who might know anything to please speak up so we can begin getting closure by getting justice for Taylor,” Byrd said.
Baltimore police have charged Darnell Holmes, 33, who was driving the car Taylor was riding in, and Holmes’ boyfriend Mallik Edison, 20, who investigators say was in the passenger seat. Both have been charged with drug and gun-related crimes unrelated to Taylor’s shooting. Police said last week that they located a white Mercedes believed to be connected to the case.
The little girl’s death gave a new sense of urgency to those people in the city who rail against Baltimore’s “no-snitching” street code.
“Somebody knows and eventually they’ll catch their guy,” Janice McCoy said while standing outside the funeral home. “Somebody knows.”
McCoy, like many who attended the viewing, didn’t know Taylor or her family. Still, they felt compelled to come and show their support.
That’s Baltimore’s way, Byrd said.
“When an innocent child is struck and killed, we tend to galvanize as a city. That’s one of the things that’s still great about us in Baltimore, despite all of our challenges that we have,” she said. “Whenever a child is involved, the whole city comes together. … This could’ve been anyone’s child.”