Newark teen remembered

August 21, 2008 10:53:33 AM PDT
A 15-year-old boy slain by a stray bullet as he slept in his bedroom last week was remembered Thursday for the way he sought to better himself in the face of trying circumstances. About 250 people mourned Bukhari Washington Thursday at a funeral at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, many of them his classmates from nearby Christ The King Prep, where he would have been a sophomore this fall.

Washington's death touched a nerve in Newark, where the number of teen homicide victims this year has already surpassed last year's total. Another victim, 18-year-old Sujeiti Ocasio, was fatally shot on the day of her high school graduation less than two blocks from the site of Thursday's services.

"There have been several devastating blows to our community's spirit," Mayor Cory A. Booker said during brief remarks. "But we must allow Bukhari's strength to become our strength, and allow his hope and optimism for his future to keep our optimism and hope for our city's future alive."

Washington had overcome the death of his father and an unsettled family life to earn acceptance into Christ The King, which opened last fall. Teens who knew him described him as a quiet, loyal friend who loved basketball and collecting sports hats.

"He had a twinkle in his eye and a smile that could light up the city of Newark," Jacqueleen Bido, a former teacher, told the congregation Thursday. "I told him that when he grew up and wrote his book, to please not forget to include me in the credits."

Two of Washington's friends, Darius Clemons and Christopher Malone, read from Scriptures, and one of Washington's sisters, Jonnetta Allen, sang a hymn.

The Rev. Leslie L. Jones, the head of the Newark Police Department's clergy affairs unit, provided the eulogy and implored mourners to make the most of their limited time on earth.

"Everything you see has a time stamp on it," Jones said.

"Bukhari's life was short, but he lived his life with a sense of purpose. He loved his family, he loved his friends, his school. He loved making a difference."

The suspect in Washington's death, 19-year-old Terrence Perry, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated manslaughter and weapons charges and is being held on $300,000 bail.

Perry has told police that he stole the gun, a Chinese-made semi-automatic rifle, to protect himself after being the victim of several assaults. He said the gun fired accidentally when he was handling it in his apartment below Washington's.

The bullet pierced the floor of Washington's bedroom and struck him in the head while he was sleeping last Thursday morning. His mother, Evonne, heard the shot and ran into the room to find his body.

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