Inside a hilltop chapel, in front of a casket covered with red carnations, Rayshaun Love’s family and friends gathered Thursday for a final tribute to the Lancaster youth who died while shielding two girls from gunfire at a party.
The mourners read from the Bible and spoke about their affection for the outgoing 17-year-old student, who was fatally wounded Dec. 19 while attending a pay-to-enter gathering.
“We miss you so much,” Love’s cousin, Camela Williams, said during the service. “You’re an angel now.”
Those attending the funeral tried to comfort Love’s relatives, who suffered a second blow when deputies arrested his half-brother, Eric Lamont Gunn, 22, as the suspected killer. Investigators said they do not believe Gunn was aiming at his brother but was firing into a crowd after scuffling with another party-goer.
On Thursday, after Love’s casket had been taken to a burial site and the mourners had dispersed, the youth’s girlfriend, DeTonya White, 17, tried to see something positive in the tragic turn of events.
“It was painful” attending the service, she said. “But it was nice that he’s not in this evil world anymore. Maybe he’s in a better place.”
About 100 people attended the service at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary, which donated the chapel, casket and burial plot after hearing that the family could not afford a funeral.
Officiating were Pastor Donald Green of Rosamond and Rev. Henry Hearns, who is also a Lancaster city councilman. Early in the service, Hearns invited the mourners to pay their respects to Love before the casket was closed.
Beside the casket was a large photograph of Love in a basketball uniform. He had played for the Antelope Valley High School team.
The clergymen stood on either side of the casket, comforting mourners who began to weep. At one point, Love’s mother, Martha Jordan, bent over the body, sobbing, “Rayshaun, your momma loves you so much. . . . Lord, please help me!”
During the service, neither the clergymen nor the other speakers spoke directly about the way Love died or his brother’s arrest. But in her eulogy, Love’s cousin, Theresa Baisden, 19, reminded the mourners that “Rayshaun passed away as a hero.”
Hearns told the mourners that Love’s death probably raised troubling questions for the people who cared about him. He urged them to seek answers in their religious faith. “We may not understand it all, but God knows what he is doing,” Hearns said.
He also asked the mourners to help end violence in their community and to “stand against evil, such as happened in this case.”
After the chapel service, Love’s casket was moved down the hillside to a grave site near the entrance to Eternal Valley. The mourners gathered around the burial place for another brief service.
When it ended, a family friend, Stephanie Liggins of Lancaster, said she was pleased that the services did not dwell on the tragic twists surrounding Love’s death. “It was very nice,” she said. “It didn’t make the family suffer.”
Nevertheless, Love’s death has caused community leaders to focus on the purported dangers of pay-to-enter parties. Some say such parties attract alcohol, illegal drugs and weapons and often lack supervision, all of which can form a lethal combination.
“I think a lot of young people will think twice now before going to house parties that are not well-secured,” Liggins said.
After the funeral, Hearns said he had deliberately avoided talking about the shooting and Gunn’s arrest in his sermon. “Everybody in the family already knew what the problem was,” he said.
In the coming weeks, however, Hearns said he will don his other hat as a Lancaster councilman and look at ways to prevent such tragedies. “I would really push hard against having these pay-to-enter parties,” he said. “Somehow, they don’t work.”