Slain Inkster toddler mourned at funeral on her birthday.

Pallbearers carry the casket of KaMiya French, 2, to the hearse after her funeral service at Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in Inkster on Saturday. / Kimberly P. Mitchell/Detroit Free Press
KaMiya French, 2, was killed before a man turned a gun on her father and shot a 12-year-old multiple times. / Family photo
KaMiya French, 2, was killed before a man turned a gun on her father and shot a 12-year-old multiple times. / Family photo

Some praised God. Some spoke against violence. But all came to mourn a little girl cut down like no child should ever be.

Her name was KaMiya, and on what would have been her 3rd birthday, her body lay in a white casket, wearing gloves and a pink dress.

■ RelatedMan wanted girl’s killing to be last thing her father ever saw, police say

■ RelatedIn Inkster, dozens light candles, shed tears for gunfire victim KaMiya, 2

Beside her, a SpongeBob SquarePants doll and a Hello Kitty toy joined a child praised as an angel, who was known to family affectionately as Chew.

KaMiya French (whose name is also regularly given as KaMiya Gross) died July 1 at an Inkster housing complex, the victim, according to the city’s former police chief, of someone’s sense of retaliation. Others have simply called it evil.

A Michigan State Police spokesman said the shooter targeted the toddler to make KaMiya’s slaying the last thing the girl’s father would see before he was killed. Her father, Kenneth French, who was also shot during the attack, survived his injuries. A 12-year-old family friend was also shot but survived.

Two Inkster men — Raymone B. Jackson, 24, and Rapheal Daniel-Jordan Hearn, also known as Raphael Hearn, 29 — have been charged with murder.

Inside the Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in Inkster today during the funeral, members of the congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to KaMiya and friends and family offered their condolences to her grief-stricken parents, French and Erica Gross, struggling at times to find the words.

One woman said KaMiya was up in heaven, without any pain, playing Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land.

One cousin struggled against a tide of emotion to say he felt his soul die a little bit when he first heard that KaMiya had been shot.

KaMiya’s sister, a child herself, said before the congregation, “You know you mean so much to me. … I love you and miss you so much. I’ll see you soon. Love, your big sister Kailey.”

Amid the anguish from the hundreds of people packing the church came voices of frustration.

Isaac King, a bishop in the Church of God in Christ, pondered what might have been.

“So much untapped potential in this little life. Perhaps she might have had the cure for cancer. Perhaps she might have been another Ella Fitzgerald … only God knows,” King said.

It’s time, he said, for a change.

“Inkster. How long? How long? Listen, if we always do what we’ve always done, we’re going to get what we’ve always gotten. … I’m thoroughly disgusted,” he said, saying that “if (the devil) doesn’t live in Inkster, he’s got to have a cottage here.”

The Rev. Leon Porter, pastor of Faith Covenant Church International, strove for positive messages in the eulogy.

“Yesterday’s failure can become today’s success, and not only that, but your tragedy can become your triumphs,” he said.

“God loves his children,” he said.

■ Related”When they killed that baby, that was it for me,’ Ex-Inkster Chief Napoleon says

Porter also touched on the departure of former Police Chief Hilton Napoleon, who resigned Friday, citing KaMiya’s killing among his reasons.

And Mayor Hilliard Hampton told the crowd that “this community will not let this death be in vain. We will come together.”

But outside the church, James Baldwin, 67, of Inkster pondered what might come of KaMiya’s killing. Baldwin, who is known as BJ, sees others from even less stable areas moving into the community now that houses are so cheap. He’s not sure they will grasp what KaMiya’s killing means or even know about it.

He said some relatives have told him they will never come back to Inkster, but he said the violence that plagues the city isn’t limited to Inkster, he said.

“You can’t run from it. It’s everywhere,” he said.


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