Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hundreds gather in St. Petersburg for Paris Whitehead-Hamilton's funeral


Inside the church walls, the preachers talked about God.

God is perfect, they said. He does not make mistakes.

Before them lay a tiny child of 8 named Paris Whitehead-Hamilton. Her casket was the color of cotton candy, and she shared it with Minnie Mouse, a soft bunny and a tiara.

She wanted to be president one day. Instead, she died in a fury of gunfire and street gangs.

Hundreds of mourners inside New Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church pondered this for 2 1/2 hours Saturday.

Bishop Wallace Bennett assured them of God's plan.

When she fell, righteousness stood up.

Her schoolmates and friends gathered, no bigger than she. Paris was so smart, they said. She would have been a good tutor. She was the class diva who loved to dress fancy, and everyone knew it.

Ukari Register, 8, thought he was lucky to know her.

A white boy and a black boy swayed side by side in a pew.

When she fell, black, white, gentiles and Jews came together.

Paris loved to dance, and her mourners lifted their feet in the aisles. From a seat halfway back, someone pulled out a tambourine and started banging.

A woman in a fuchsia blazer fell to the floor and lay prone in a sweat as a circle of women held hands in a halo above her.

When it was time for her to go, you brought about a resurrection to the community to let us know what needed to be done.

Public officials spoke. State Rep. Darryl Rouson hugged his five children tight Friday, he said — especially his 8-year-old. St. Petersburg council member Wengay Newton called himself a product of the same region that claimed the girl. And Paris shook the community from a slumber in a way Commissioner Ken Welch had never seen.

A traveling businessman named Ed Kimbrough heard about Paris on the news from his hotel room. At the funeral, he pledged to raise money to support Paris' family campaign to end street violence.

We thank you for your mercy. It could have been us.

A teenager smoothed down her sister's hair. A college student spoke of past mistakes he'd made growing up in the streets. So many have faltered, he said.

What the devil made bad, God turned it around.

Paris gave everyone an opportunity, said Pastor Tony Bradley. He invited people to step up. To promise to change the way they were living.


They trickled to the front and settled before the pink casket and the roses and the oil paintings of a child with almond eyes and cheeks like apples.

She's not dead. Jesus says she's just sleeping.

They bowed and prayed and lifted their hands. A young woman who had spent the service in the far back shadows of the church walked forward, succumbed and let free a guttural shriek that echoed through the room.

When she went down, she went down in victory.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

The back story

Paris Whitehead-Hamilton was killed in a gang-related shooting in her home on Preston Avenue in St. Petersburg the early morning of April 5. Paris was running from bed as more than 50 bullets blasted the house. She was shot three times in the back. There have been three arrests in connection with the murder, and police are examining a fourth suspect. SWAT teams have raided drug houses. Paris' family has launched a campaign called Helping Paris Connect the Dots to encourage communication about illegal activity. There are also hopes for a "Paris Line" that people can call with crime tips, said Ray Tampa, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP. Police continue to investigate the crime.

Hundreds gather in St. Petersburg for Paris Whitehead-Hamilton's funeral 04/11/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School


    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  2. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)


    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.
  3. Kushner discloses additional $10M in assets


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner "inadvertently omitted" more than 70 assets worth at least $10.6 million from his personal financial disclosure reports, according to revised paperwork released Friday.

  4. Police: Errant U.S. bombing kills 12 Afghan security forces


    KABUL, Afghanistan — An errant U.S. airstrike confirmed by the Pentagon killed 12 Afghan National Police officers and wounded two others, as another 11 police were killed and six wounded in clashes with the Taliban, Afghan officials said Saturday.

  5. Races are reversed in a police killing, and again a family asks: Why?


    MINNEAPOLIS — There was something bad going on in the alleyway behind the house, she told her fiancé on the phone, someone who sounded as if she was in distress, maybe a rape. It was past 11 p.m., and most people on Washburn Avenue were furled in their beds.

    joint cutline 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch of body type 1 inch 1 inch