Hundreds Mourn Slain Teenager
Family, Friends Recall Bubbly Girl With a Big Smile as Officials Renew Call for Justice

By Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 27, 2007

Only a week ago, the high school senior who loved to laugh and dance was coaxing her mother to allow her to attend a nightclub and hear a live band.

Yesterday, her classmates and friends rushed from their seats in tears after hearing the eulogy to 17-year-old Taleshia Ford, who was shot to death with a single bullet while on the dance floor of the Smarta/Broadway nightclub.

Hundreds flocked to the Bible Way Temple Church in Northwest Washington to recall a young life snatched too soon. Preachers urged those who didn't know Jesus to join the church.

An obituary handed out at the ceremony noted that the teenager loved orange soda, Cheetos and laughing out loud and always wore a bright smile. The Rev. Robert H. Austin, who had known her for years, described Ford as "honorable, respectable and dedicated."

A senior at Booker T. Washington Public Charter School, Ford had worked with the Mayor's Youth Leadership Institute and was set to graduate in June. But about 2 a.m. last Saturday, she was killed after another patron's gun fired during an altercation with a bouncer at the club. Politicians said yesterday that the death is a parent's nightmare.

"You think about your own children," said Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). "You think about your own brothers and sisters. The whole city relates to the pain the family is dealing with."

The D.C. Council issued a resolution in Ford's honor, with two members showing up in person to deliver it. Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said that he had met Ford at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center and commended her parents, who testified a day before the funeral in favor of stricter regulations and better security for nightclubs. The District allows club owners to admit patrons as young as they choose -- typically a minimum age of 15 to 18 -- even if they serve alcohol.

"In their darkest hour, they thought about your children," he told a packed audience.

Much of the initial focus had been on go-go music, which was what the Smarta club, at 1919 Ninth St. NW, featured the night Ford was killed. But yesterday, Austin, the featured speaker, said the music had nothing to do with the girl's death. "It ain't the go-go that's bad," the preacher said. "What about the liquor store? What about cigarettes you smoke behind closed doors?"

Several D.C. police officers milled about the lobby during the funeral. Authorities said this week that they know the nickname of the shooting suspect, although no arrest has been made.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said that new legislation is needed to keep children safe and that police need help solving the crime.

"We want justice," he told the grieving crowd. "If you know or if you have information about who pulled the trigger, will you please come forward?"

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