NEW YORK (AP) — About 1,000 people from all walks of life, some crying and others wearing photo-emblazoned T-shirts, gathered Friday to mourn a 6-year-old Brooklyn boy stabbed in a public housing project elevator.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton attended a private wake before the funeral of Prince Joshua Avitto, known as P.J. The line of relatives, friends and community members stretched around the block outside the St. Paul Community Baptist Church in the East New York neighborhood.
"It's very hard for me to say how very sad I am today," said his father, Nicholas Avitto. "Our greatest joy and pleasure was my son."
Taj Gibson, a relative and a player for the Chicago Bulls, was there, as were the team's coach, Tom Thibodeau, and staff from the first-grader's school.
Slideshows of the smiling boy were displayed above the church's main stage.
"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."
Among the flower arrangements placed on the altar was a Superman-themed bouquet, an ode to P.J.'s "Superman" nickname. His body was taken out in a small white casket and put into the hearse to go to a crematorium for a private, family-only service.
On Thursday, police charged a recently released convict with murder and other crimes in the attack Sunday that killed P.J. and critically wounded 7-year-old Mikayla Capers, his friend.
Police said Daniel St. Hubert is also a suspect in the Wednesday stabbing of a homeless man on a Manhattan subway platform and the fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland a week ago, just blocks from the Brooklyn elevator attack. He is not charged in those crimes.
Investigators are now reviewing all stabbings citywide that have occurred since St. Hubert was freed on May 23.
St. Hubert, 27, served time for attempted murder and assault. Court records show he was arrested in May 2009 after punching his mother in the face, choking her with an electrical cord and stealing her car. He pleaded guilty in July 2012.
St. Hubert was expected to get a new lawyer on Friday, according to the Brooklyn district attorney's office.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.