Just blocks away from where she was fatally shot 10 days ago, 1-year-old Londyn Samuels was remembered Saturday by close to 300 friends, family members and elected officials in an impassioned funeral at New Hope Baptist Church in Central City.
Londyn’s father, 20-year-old Keion Reed, said his daughter wouldn’t want mourners to be upset and described Londyn as his “pride and joy.” He fought back tears as he recalled how he would come home from work frustrated and find relief when Londyn would lay her head on his chest.
“It hurts so much to bury your child,” Reed said.
Londyn’s mother, Andrea Samuels, didn’t speak at the funeral, but Londyn’s uncle Tyrin Samuels shared memories of the time he spent watching the child.
“She had a million-dollar smile,” Samuels said. He added that the girl had a voracious appetite for her age. “She loved to eat. She could put down a $5 footlong (sandwich) all by herself.”
De’joun Veal and Gregory Fortenberry both performed solos while mourners swayed in their pews and openly wept. Ushers walked up and down the aisle distributing tissues to those overcome by emotion.
After she finished singing, Veal walked down to the tiny, light-pink casket and kissed Londyn on her forehead.
Londyn wore a pink dress and had a silver tiara on her head.
“I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything more perfect than the beauty of that child,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who attended the funeral along with City Council members Jackie Clarkson and LaToya Cantrell.
Landrieu spoke briefly, interweaving biblical parables and condolences with an urgent plea for a cessation to the city’s unwavering violence.
“The perversion of God’s love, the bullet, the gun, the intent behind pulling the trigger … is the ugly part of life that God did not intend,” he said.
Londyn was shot on the evening of Aug. 29 in the 2800 block of South Saratoga Street while was she was in the arms of her baby sitter. The baby sitter, who was also shot, survived her injuries.
Police have arrested two men in connection with the child’s death.
Keelen Armstrong, 24, was arrested Wednesday after being stopped by police for driving 80 mph on Interstate 10 in New Orleans East. Detective Robert Barrere had just identified him as a suspect in the case and Armstrong was booked on counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
On Thursday, police apprehended 19-year-old Darnell Ramee and also booked him with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
According to court documents, it was Armstrong who told police that Ramee was responsible for the shooting.
Police have yet to release a motive for the crime.
On Saturday, Landrieu implored the community to use Londyn’s death as a catalyst for changing the culture of violence that has afflicted the city.
“What kind of poison, what kind of hatred, what kind of indifference, uncaring, do we unleash on our streets?” he asked.
Three days after Londyn’s death, 11-year-old Arabian Gayles was fatally shot when gunmen opened fire on her family’s home in the Carrollton area near the Jefferson Parish line.
Saturday’s funeral ended with a message from the Rev. Jamaal Weathersby, who asked mourners to remember, in difficult times, the power of prayer.
“You might not be able to call (President Barack) Obama, you might not be able to talk to (Gov. Bobby) Jindal or the mayor, but you can always put a call into God because he’s always on the main line,” Weathersby said.
Dozens of young children sat in their parents’ laps and crawled on the pews. One woman shook her head in disbelief upon viewing Londyn’s body, then tightly clutched the infant next to her.
Outside, on the blocks surrounding the church, signs reading “Stop the shooting, I want to grow up,” were planted in front yards.
One man who attended the funeral wore a T-shirt with a bright red stop sign plastered on the front. “Men stop killing babies,” it said.