Mourners plead, pray for end to violence

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Mourners react at the funeral 11-year-old Arabian Gayles, who was murdered by a stray bullet on Labor Day, Sept. 2., at the Prayer Tower Chuch of God in Christ in New Orleans, on Saturday.
Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Mourners react at the funeral 11-year-old Arabian Gayles, who was murdered by a stray bullet on Labor Day, Sept. 2., at the Prayer Tower Chuch of God in Christ in New Orleans, on Saturday.

Community prays, pleads for end to violence

“Neighbor: When will the bleeding stop?”

That was the refrain that hundreds of mourners shouted in unison Saturday at Prayer Tower Baptist Church, during an emotional funeral for 11-year-old Arabian Gayles who was killed when gunmen opened fire on her Carrollton-area home on Labor Day.

The service, which packed not only the sanctuary, but the vestibule and a number of overflow areas, drew close to 500 family members, neighbors and city officials to pay tribute to Arabian’s life, provide support for her grieving family and console a community weary of gun violence.

“This young, dear child’s life was cut short because of violence in our city,” said City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who represents District A, where Arabian lived. “We’re here to mourn her and to celebrate her.”

Darlene Carter, who read an obituary of Arabian, described her as a happy girl who loved to sing, play and dance.

In a letter to her daughter that Carter read, Arabian’s mother, Ashley Moffett, said Arabian was a bundle of love and joy.

“She was a daughter that you could call on and she would come running,” Moffett wrote.

Police have yet to make any arrests, name any suspects or disclose a motive in the shooting that took Arabian’s life and injured her 11-year-old cousin, Paulreiona Cary, and 38-year-old Tommy Briggs in the early morning hours of Sept. 2.

Arabian was shot numerous times, including in the head, and died hours after the shooting at a local hospital. The injuries to the other victims were not life-threatening.

NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said detectives believe multiple gunmen were involved and at least twelve shots were fired at the house, which is located in the 1300 block of General Ogden Street, a block from Oak Street and near the Jefferson Parish line.

On Friday, detectives interviewed two men police classified as “persons of interest” but who were not suspects. Later that day police released a description of a stolen white 2013 Volkswagen CC sport with Georgia license plates detectives say they believe was used in the murder.

The shooting occurred just four days after 1-year-old Londyn Samuels was fatally shot in the arms of her babysitter in Central City, and the two murders have again focused attention on the city’s longstanding problems with gun violence.

On Saturday, the Rev. Jermaine Hampton said he hoped Arabian’s death would be a catalyst for change and that she would be remembered for decades to come.

“I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m agitated. An 11-year-old girl died with life ahead of her, with destiny ahead of her,” he said. “But guess what? Her life and her death is not in vain.”

Hampton urged mourners to rally around their faith in times of trauma and to commit themselves to spreading the gospel of Christ as an antidote to violence and hopelessness.

“I’m ready to do some spiritual warfare,” he said. “I’m ready to take the church outside of these four walls.”

Exactly one week after he addressed mourners at Londyn’s funeral, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that although he’d never met Arabian, they shared similar passions — singing, dancing and jumping rope.

“Her joy was an expression of love, the bullet that took her life was the code of hatred,” Landrieu said.

Landrieu drew parallels between the struggle against gun violence and the civil rights movement and talked about how he had been moved during a recent visit to Birmingham, Ala., by the story of four girls who were killed in the bombing of the 16th Avenue Baptist Church 50 years ago by the Klu Klux Klan.

Their death, Landrieu said, had helped ignite the movement for civil rights.

He said he hopes the recent deaths of young victims in New Orleans would inspire similar change.

“Dr. King did not take a bullet and John Lewis did not take a beating so we could kill ourselves on these streets,” Landrieu said.