A dozen Boy Scouts filed into Latney's Funeral Home, caps pressed reverently to their chests. Other children, in stiff dresses and coats and ties, stood nervously in the hallway. Two small brothers sat together in a chair, crying quietly.
They and several hundred adults came to mourn 7-year-old Carl Ellis Arthur, of Livingston Road SE, who drowned last Sunday during a fight with two older boys who wanted his bicycle, according to police. Carl was hit in the head with a baseball bat, pushed into the water at Oxon Cove and pelted with rocks until he stepped back into water that was too deep and drowned, police said.
There was no mention, however, of the violent circumstances of Carl's death during the 30-minute funeral service yesterday.
His aunt, Frankie Hopkins, said only that Carl "departed this life suddenly" in her delivery of the family's message to the mourners. The Rev. M.N. Smith gave a eulogy intent on comforting the child's family rather than condemning the cause of his death.
"We wanted it that way," said Carl's uncle, John Swinson, after the service. "It does make a difference how it happened, I can't say that it doesn't. Those boys probably just lost control, and I don't know what went through their minds. But bitterness is not going to make it right."
The small chapel could not accommodate the friends and relatives who attended the funeral; the crowd spilled over into the hallways and adjoining rooms.
Smith read the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my Shepherd . . . ." A quartet sang "The Sweet Bye and Bye." Carl's mother, Diana Arthur, dabbed at her eyes with a white handkerchief in the front row.
"That little child was only 7 years old," Smith said during the service. "He had not been in the wicked world among the evil men and women. He was pure."
Finally, the Boy Scouts of Troop 94 stepped forward to carry the small casket to the hearse.
"We had wanted to recruit Carl," said the troop leader, Warren Smith, "but we just didn't have enough time, and he wasn't quite old enough. We all knew him, though. We had known him since he was born."
As the mourners prepared to leave the funeral home for the burial at Lincoln Cemetery, one young boy in a dark-blue suit hung back, tears rolling down his face. He was a neighbor and friend of Carl's, Demetrus Keyes, 14.
"He used to come by our house a lot and eat dinner with us," Demetrus said. "He was a good kid.
"The last time I saw him was Sunday morning," Demetrus continued, crying harder. "It was maybe an hour before he died. He was riding his bike. He said he was going to the playground, and I told him I'd see him later. But when I got there, he was gone."