- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 8, 2004

Family, friends, classmates, neighbors and elected officials filled the Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church in Northeast yesterday to say goodbye to Chelsea Danielle Cromartie, the 8-year-old who was killed by a random shot Monday night while visiting the home of a relative in the Northeast neighborhood of Deanwood.

“It could have been any one of our children — that’s the reality,” said mourner Ikelia Crawford of Deanwood, the mother of three children, ages 5, 4 and 2.

“I always hear people say: ‘They were in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ but Chelsea was in the right place, doing the right thing — being a child,” Ms. Crawford, 26, said.

Chelsea’s schoolmates, accompanied by their parents, donned T-shirts with a portrait of the bright-eyed third-grader who attended Bradbury Heights Elementary School in Capitol Heights. Above her portrait, the words “A Fallen Angel — 7/25/95 - 5/3/04” were inscribed. Others wore T-shirts that read: “A Victim of Circumstance.”

An estimated 2,000 people paid their respects during the viewing and funeral.

The white casket remained open throughout the two hour and 20 minute service. The young victim was buried in a white dress with a jeweled tiara atop her cascades of brown curls.

Children, teenagers and adults were visibly shaken as they walked away from the casket in tears, sobbing and holding onto friends and family members.

The Rev. Stephen E. Young Sr. conducted the service in front of a huge banner printed with the words, “I Ain’t Taking No More in 2004.” Chelsea’s principal, Denise Lynch, thanked the Cromartie family on behalf of the Bradbury Heights school community for “the opportunity to have her in our lives.”

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Council members Vincent Orange and Carol Schwartz, former Mayor Marion Barry and D. C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton came to offer condolences as well.

Mrs. Norton said she was appalled that parents could not bring a child to a relative’s home without having her shot down.

“[Yesterday], I heard Rumsfeld apologize. I finally heard President Bush apologize [for the abuses in Iraqi prisons]. Well, somebody has got to apologize to this family,” Mrs. Norton said, bringing the crowd to its feet.

Mrs. Norton added that it was the duty of the entire community to take responsibility. “Let’s start here,” she told the crowd. “Somebody out there knows [who did this].”

Mr. Barry, who was applauded when he entered the church, told the congregation that much needs to be done to stop the killing.

“We need a better educational system, jobs for every child, more recreation centers. Tear down those public housing complexes,” he said, adding that “we can’t be with the [Cromartie] family just today. We must be with them twenty-four seven, 365 days” of the year.

Willie F. Wilson, pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast, talked about violence and guns and how they find their way into the black community.

“We have folks who can track a spacecraft millions of miles away — can track a storm, can track everything that should be tracked. But, they can’t track the drugs and guns coming into our communities,” he said.

The minister also downplayed the need for a Major League baseball stadium in the District.

“We need some major league schools, some major league education. We need a major league summer job program. We need a major league drug program,” Mr. Wilson said.

The Metropolitan Police Department had been offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the shooting, the 13th time a child has been killed in the city this year.

On Friday, an additional $25,000 was pledged by William E. Schuiling, chairman of the board of the Brown’s Automotive Group of Fairfax.

Mr. Young continued the momentum after numerous speakers spoke of their commitment to finding the person or persons responsible for Chelsea’s death.

“A $75,000 reward is not a lot of money, considering the money [spent] looking for [Osama] binLaden. [And] when we send every cop in the District out looking for Chandra Levy.

“Every person age 8 to 18 should have been a high-profile homicide,” Mr. Young said to a chorus of “amen.”

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