By JORDYN HOLMAN
Some were barely tall enough to peer inside the white casket.
Others wore green T-shirts paying homage to Amari Brown’s crime fighting, pizza-loving heroes.
A few even went a step further and wore Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costumes to honor the 7-year-old boy who was gunned down on the 4th of July.
“I hope we all learn from this,” Amari’s principal at the Leif Ericson Elementary School told the crowd of 600 at Amari’s funeral Saturday afternoon.
Leavelle Abram grew emotional recalling the lively child who loved to dance the “Nae Nae” in the hallways. He said the garden at Ericson will be dedicated to Amari.
“This is the first time I’ve lost a kid in grammar school,” Abram said at the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, 2622 West Jackson Boulevard.
“It hurts, it hurts, it hurts.”
Amari was watching fireworks at his father’s home in Humboldt Park last weekend when he was shot in the chest. The bullet, police said, was apparently meant for the elder Brown a purported “ranking member” of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang.
A message from Antonio Brown was printed inside a funeral program Saturday filled with pictures of Amari.
“Please don’t tell me you know how I feel, unless you have lost your child too,” Antonio Brown wrote. “Please don’t tell me my broken heart will heal, because that is just not true. Please don’t tell me my son is in a better place, though it is true, I want him here with me.”
As mourners wiped away tears, one of Amari’s cousins reminded them that Amari wouldn’t want anyone to be too sad.
“Tell people you love them everyday,” the cousin said.
Amari was laid to rest in a white suit and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bow tie similar to the one his father wore. Amari’s mother was wearing a TMNT T-shirt.
Balloons and wreaths shaped like the Ninja Turtles and footballs surrounded the open casket that also had a picture of the “Heroes in a Half Shell” inside. A note accompanying the spray paint art read, “We love you Amari.”
Dahlia Trusty, a cousin who often babysat Amari, said she refuses to allow him to be a statistic.
“I just wanted him to have a promising future,” she said.
“Amari loved hard…bless him, bless my cousin Amber and bless Amari’s father. I consider this as a wake up call.”
The church pastor, Johnny Miller, noted that Amari would have graduated college in 2030. “Who’s going to speak on behalf of our young brother?” Miller asked.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis D-Ill. and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill. were also on hand to pay their respects to the slain boy.
“To the family I say hold your heads high. Be grateful for the life you have experienced,” Davis told Amari’s loved ones.
“We come to share in this tragedy with you. Our hearts are touched. We feel the pain, we feel the frustration.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had criticized Amari’s father for not cooperating with police following the deadly shooting, sent a representative to read a statement.
The mayor said Amari’s life was filled with “love and purpose.”
“The loss of Amari encourages us to do better…as the city of Chicago. We will never forget Amari,” Emanuel’s statement read.
After the funeral about a hundred people remained outside the church hoping to glimpse Amari’s body.
Earlier this week, Antonio Brown made a brief appearance at the George Leighton Criminal Courthouse for an unrelated gun case.
There, a judge offered her condolences and his lawyer, Donna Rotunno, blasted Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy for saying that had the elder Brown been in jail at the time of the shooting, his child would still be alive.
Rotunno maintained her client was not the intended target of the shooting but declined to specify why she believes that to be the case.