ST. PETERSBURG — The Rev. Manuel Sykes had an important message Saturday for the family of Hydra Lacy Jr.
The pastor said that in recent days, he's been approached by many people in the community.
"They said to me, 'Rev. Sykes … everybody out there is not blaming the family."
Sykes said people don't want family members to feel like they are alone.
On Saturday, they weren't.
Several hundred people gathered with friends and relatives at Sykes' church, Bethel Community Baptist, for the somber funeral service for Lacy, the fugitive who shot and killed two St. Petersburg police officers and injured a deputy U.S. marshal on Jan. 24 and died in the confrontation.
They came to say goodbye. They came to make peace. They came to support the family.
"We're here today because an intersection — an intersection of lives," said Sykes, who recently was elected president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP. "It doesn't matter who had the right of way. Everybody got hurt."
Sykes told the St. Petersburg Times earlier this week that giving the eulogy for Lacy, 39, would be one of the most difficult and controversial tasks he's had to do.
At the service, Sykes encouraged people to plant seeds of peace in the wake of a tragedy that has gripped the community.
Sykes said good things can come out of bad situations.
He reminded those at the funeral of when the city came together in 2009 after the murder of 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton, an innocent victim caught in the middle of gang violence.
He noted how the same thing happened across the country after the recent shooting tragedy in Arizona, and around the world after Hurricane Katrina and the massive earthquake in Haiti.
Sykes told the mourners it would be up to them to determine the outcome of this situation.
"It becomes a moment this community can use to become better," he said. "Whatever you plant, expect it to come up."
During the service, a line of mourners walked solemnly past Lacy's blue casket. Many rose to their feet when a choir sang, Nobody Greater and He Saw the Best in Me. Ministers quoted scripture.
Among those in attendance were senior city administrator Goliath Davis, Louis Muhammad of Mosque 95 Nation of Islam and Omali Yeshitela, founder of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement.
It did not appear that boxer Jeff Lacy, Hydra's brother, or Christine Lacy, his wife, were inside the church.
Local minister Watson Haynes spoke during the "reflections" portion of the service.
He told the family the Lord loved them and encouraged them to rely on their faith.
"Nothing can separate you from the love of God," he said.
Haynes and Davis said they attended because they know the family and wanted to support them.
"Funerals are for the living," Davis said, adding that he also attended the funeral for the slain officers. "You go to support the living."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8643.