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Funeral Held for Five-Year-Old Milwaukee Shooting Victim

Family and friends laid five-year-old Laylah Petersen to rest on Wednesday.

She was shot in the head as she sat on her grandfather’s lap a week ago at the family home on Milwaukee’s northwest side. We spoke with people paying their respects at Our Lady of Good Hope Church.

As many as 1,500 people stopped by the church Wednesday morning to say goodbye to little Laylah Peterson and support her family.

Robert Lovelace doesn’t know the family, but he felt compelled to attend the visitation.

“I have a great granddaughter whose name is Laylah and she’s five-years-old, and the resemblance is kind of striking. It’s a travesty in the community, and it’s just something that kind of touched my heart,” Lovelace says.

Lovelace says there’s absolutely nothing anyone can say to ease the pain the family feels, but he hopes the community’s outpouring of love helps a little.

Laylah was shot in the head when someone shot 12 bullets into her family's home

Minister Richard Schwoegler spoke on the family’s behalf. He says its goal is to make sure something good comes from the five-year-old’s death.

“Her heart was donated so that another child could live,” Schwoegler says. "The other legacy is going to be that all different denominational churches are going to work together as one, and we’re going to come together. We’re going to go and do these adopt a blocks, we’re going to start these faith based teams within the districts in [the] Milwaukee Police Department and we’re going to revitalize one person at a time. And that’s going to change families and generations and generations."

Many people exited the church wearing pink buttons with the message “Stop the Violence” and pins with Laylah’s picture. Olivia Martinez grew up with Laylah’s mother.

“Obviously, there’s no boundaries any more,” Martinez says. "You know people are dying, kids are dying now. Just I don’t know if there has to be laws being made or things like that. Something has to be done to say that this has to stop. It’s something you’d never wish on your worst enemy. You never want to see the body of a five-year-old laying in a coffin over probably nothing."

Martinez carried with her a poem read at a vigil for Laylah over the weekend.

So far this year in Milwaukee, 11 kids under the age of 13 have been shot. Three lost their lives.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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