‘He could change anybody’s day’: Family mourns one-year-old shooting victim at funeral

Davell Gardner, Sr. speaks at his son’s funeral comforted by Reverend Al Sharpton.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Dozens of mourners gathered in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Monday morning for a funeral for Davell Gardner, Jr., a smiley, one-year-old boy who was tragically shot and killed in his stroller on July 12.

The service, held at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, drew community members and local leaders who paid their respects to Gardner’s family and called for an end to gun violence. 

“This young boy deserves the same kind of attention that hopefully could shake up this city,” said the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Family members remembered Gardner as a happy baby who lit up the lives of friends and family.

The family of Davell Gardner, Jr. held a funeral for the one-year-old who was shot to death in his stroller in Bedford-Stuyvesant on July 12.Photo by Todd Maisel

“He could change anybody’s day. He just had so many people that he loved and they loved him back,” said the boy’s father, Davell Gardner, Sr. “My son is gone. I don’t have anybody else.”

The boy’s father broke down while recalling his relationship with his only child.  

“It was such a great experience … having a son,” he said through tears. “They took my son. They took my family.”

Gardner, who was going to turn two in September, was killed the night of Sunday, July 12 after a shooter opened fire on Raymond Bush Playground in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where Gardner’s family was at a barbecue. 

Attorney General Letitia James arrives for funeral.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The baby and three other shooting victims were rushed to Maimonides Medical Center, where Gardner died of his injuries on early Monday morning. The other three victims survived. 

At Gardner’s funeral, Attorney General Letitia James said she’d work to hold the shooter to account.

“My faith teaches me that in heaven there’s a special place for children … but my faith also teaches me that there’s a special place in hell for the person that did this and for all the individuals who are responsible for gun violence in our communities,” she said. “Black lives do matter, but Black lives and the lives of babies must matter to us first and foremost.”

Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy, blamed gun manufacturers, politicians, and special interest groups for the baby’s death, and urged the community must work together to get guns off the streets. 

Chief Judith Harrison of Brooklyn North joins the mourners at the church.Photo by Todd Maisel

“This is disgrace that gun manufacturers, gun distributors, and those that are responsible will have to [answer],” he said. “These kids out here don’t have gun manufacturing plants, they don’t make bullets, [gun distributors] infiltrate our communities with guns, and we cant even get a background check passed.”

Following the speakers’ remarks, the family gathered around Gardner’s little casket, where his Elmo doll and Teddy bear sat surrounded by white flowers. 

As the casket was placed in a hearse outside the church, attendees reassured the baby’s distraught family. One mourner was Gwen Carr — the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed in 2014 by a police officer’s chokehold — who said that her experience losing a child moved her to attend the baby’s funeral. 

“This is the loss of a child. No matter how young the mother is or how old the mother is, this is still the loss of a child,” she said. “When we say Black lives matter, Black lives don’t only matter when there’s a police killing. It matters when theres violence in the street, it matters when they mistreat our mentally ill.” 

Gwen Carr comforts grandma Towana Gordon.Photo by Todd Maisel

On Sunday, the family held a wake for Gardner at the Lawrence Woodward Funeral Home on Troy Avenue. Both the wake and the funeral were paid for and facilitated by New York Knicks player Taj Gibson and his foundation. 

Gardner’s killing comes as gun violence continues to spike throughout Brooklyn, with 148 victims of gun violence over the 28-day period that ended on July 26 — compared with just 34 over the same stretch last year, according to police data. On Sunday alone, eight people were shot and killed across the city, including a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old boy in Cypress Hills, who were found with gunshot wounds to the head on Vermont Street by Crosby Avenue at 6:38 pm, police said. 

Update (July 29): This article has been updated to reflect the number of gun violence victims in Brooklyn over the 28-day period that ended on July 26.