NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of people crowded into a church in Brooklyn to say goodbye to a little boy stabbed to death inside an elevator in Brooklyn.
The line of family, friends and others stretched around the block Friday for the wake and funeral of 6-year-old Prince Joshua “P.J.” Avitto at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in East New York.
As CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, P.J.’s father, Nicholas Avitto, was overcome with sadness as the tiny white casket was carried into the church.
“With the grace of God, I’m holding up,” he said. “I’m holding up.”
Pallbearers carried the casket followed by a Spider-Man floral arrangement, one of P.J.’s favorite superheroes.
“We’ve come today to celebrate P.J.’s life,” the Rev. David Brawley said. “But we must acknowledge that his life was ended way too soon.”
Also on the altar was a Superman-themed bouquet, an ode to the 6-year-old’s “Superman” nickname.
“It’s very hard for me to say how very sad I am today,” Nicholas Avitto said. “Our greatest joy and pleasure was my son.”
Hundreds Gather For Funeral Of 6-Year-Old Boy Killed In Brooklyn Elevator Attack
Inside the church, pictures of the little boy were displayed above the main stage.
“It’s something that no parent, nobody should go through at all,” said Eddie Velez, who coached P.J. on a neighborhood baseball team. “I’m just at a loss for words.”
Valerie Handle told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa that P.J. was like a nephew to her.
“Everybody loved him. There wasn’t anybody — when you met him, you had to love him. You didn’t have a choice,” she said.
“He likes to give you little hugs,” P.J.’s nursery school teacher Janet James said. “Sometimes he’d say, you know, ‘I love you.’ I said, ‘love you too P.J., love you too Prince.’ It’s hard. It’s really hard.”
Many at the service Friday didn’t know P.J., but came to show their support for his family.
“This is just something that is sad,” said East New York resident Debra Cesaire. “The parents, family and friends should never have to go through this.”
Also in attendance was Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Rev. Al Sharpton and several other elected officials. Sharpton called it a “touching” service.
Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was also in attendance. Bulls forward Taj Gibson is P.J.’s cousin.
“It’s going to be real hard,” Gibson said. “Just having that young face running around the barbecues, always saying, ‘Pick me up.’”
P.J.’s parents released white doves at the end of the service, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported. Mourners chanted his name, vowing to never forget him.
Police said the little boy was killed and his friend, 7-year-old Mikayla Capers was critically injured in a knife attack Sunday inside the Boulevard Houses.
On Thursday, Daniel St. Hubert, 27, was officially charged with murder, attempted murder, assault and other crimes in connection with the attack, police said.
He appeared in court Friday in connection with the charges and was ordered held without bail.
Police said it was around 6 p.m. Sunday when the children went upstairs to get some ice cream from P.J.’s sixth-floor apartment.
That was when police said St. Hubert followed them into the elevator and used a steak knife to stab each child multiple times. P.J. died at a hospital.
Mikayla remains hospitalized. During P.J.’s funeral Friday, the church erupted in applause when it was announced that she is now out of the Intensive Care Unit.
Police said St. Hubert is also a suspect in the subway stabbing of a homeless man Wednesday in Chelsea and is being eyed in the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland last Friday in East New York.
St. Hubert has not yet been formally charged in those two cases. Police said investigators are still testing forensic evidence.
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