One young girl cried out and backed away, initially unable to enter the church after glimpsing the momentarily open casket of the 13-year-old victim of a double shooting that killed two teenagers Dec. 5 in Pleasantville.
Others stood silently, watching and crying, unable to speak about their grief over the death of Todd Amuro Mitchell.
“It’s just so stupid,” said Emily Marign, godmother to Mitchell, in a forced whisper between tears. She could not say anything more.
The shooting incident, in which Taron Williams, 19, of Pleasantville, also was killed, is still under investigation, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.
More than 100 adults and teens attended the Wednesday morning funeral for Mitchell at Faith Baptist Church on Tilton Road in Pleasantville.
Despite Wednesday being a school day, many of Mitchell’s peers and classmates attended the 11 a.m. service, glimpsing the young teen’s body before the casket was closed at 11:15.
“I just never thought it would be him,” said Braheem Thomas, 17, who knew Mitchell for several years. “There are other people out there who do stuff and nothing ever happens. He did nothing wrong.”
Whispers and muffled crying were heard in the otherwise quiet church pews, as attendees heard a poem by Mitchell’s sister, Domanique Townsend. There were many who left in tears during the subsequent song selections and hymns, unable to sit through the touching lyrics.
“One thing I know he hated, he hated to see tears. That’s the only reason why I’m holding them back right now ,” Thomas said.
“He loved to just play sports and make everybody happy. He was not the kid who hurt people’s feelings and stuff,” said Kanashia Hamlett, 15.
“It was just the wrong crowd,” Thomas said.
The obituary in the program for the ceremony stated Mitchell had been a football player since he was 5 years old, for a few local and school teams, and had also played basketball.
Anaya Coles, 15, said she had seen Mitchell less than 24 hours before the shootings, about 11 p.m. Dec. 5 on Woodland Avenue, and had been his girlfriend for eight months. Her grandfather told her the news of his death, and she said she couldn’t believe it.
“I’m going to miss everything about him,” Coles said.
Most who spoke briefly said his smile was what they missed.
“Todd would talk to me as if he was my age and he’d been through it before. But he was so young. It was like an old person’s mind stuck in a young person’s body. He understood everything,” Thomas said.
“I just wish he could come back,” Hamlett said.
The eulogy was filled with messages asking teens to come back to church.
“It’s not what you put on that makes you a great possession, it’s the God you subscribe to,” said the Rev. Kevin Ragland. “He’ll deliver you from weed, he’ll deliver you from crack and the state of confusion. Because there is a lot of confusion in this region.”
“The last thing he said to me was, ‘Stay safe, and take care of your nieces and nephews,’” Thomas said. “I didn’t believe it at first until just now, after seeing his body. It felt like a dream, something that shouldn’t have come true.”
The procession left the church to attend the final viewing of Mitchell at Serenity Funeral Home and subsequent burial.
The funeral service for Williams will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Second Baptist Church at 110 N. Rev. I.S. Cole Plaza in Atlantic City. A viewing will take place from 9 to 11 a.m.
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