Funeral for teen basketball star killed by stray gunfire leads to calls to end wave of gun violence

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BRONXVILLE, N.Y. — The high school basketball standout who died when a stray bullet hit him at a party last month was laid to rest on Wednesday.

Many in attendance expressed hope that the death of Brandon Hendricks-Ellison, 17, which happened in the middle of rising gun violence in New York City, might help bring the wave of shooting deaths and injuries to an end.

Surakata Jawara, a basketball teammate of Hendricks-Ellison, said that the loss of his friend and team captain needs to send a message to anyone considering using a firearm to settle a score.

“We have to do better,” Jawara said, just before the funeral at First Baptist Church here. “We’re killing each other. This is what they want.”

His comment was one of many directed at communities far beyond the church sanctuary. The messages all noted that since Hendricks-Ellison’s death on June 29th, more than two dozen people have been killed in some 200 shootings in New York City, according to police.

Vanessa Gibson, a city councilmember from the Bronx, was one of many dignitaries on hand for the funeral. She said that Hendricks-Ellison’s loss should trigger action by legislators, activists and residents.

“In just 17 short years, look at the impact that Brandon has had in the Bronx and beyond,” Gibson said. She added that she was introducing legislation to have a street named after him.

Also at the early afternoon service were Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed in NYPD custody in 2014. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also stopped by to pay his respects. Councilmember Andy King also spoke at the service.

Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for the James Monroe High School hoops standout who was on his way to college on an athletic scholarship when he was gunned down. Sharpton said that Hendricks-Ellison’s tragedy, along with the deaths of others, including the killing of one year-old Davell Gardner by stray gunfire earlier this week, should provoke change.

“This young man should wake us up,” Rev. Sharpton said from the pulpit, “to say as much as we fight those who do our community wrong, we must fight those in the community that do wrong.”

In the pews, Hendricks-Ellison’s teammates wore jerseys emblazoned with his number, five. They added a phrase to the back of each jersey: #LiveLikeFive.

The loss of his life is the foundation for what many at his home going service said they hope will be a new effort to prevent other lives from being lost.

“We just have to stop the violence between us, [as well as] police brutality,” Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, who’s an activist in her own right, said after the service. “All the brutality has to stop.”

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