As friends and family gathered Tuesday at the funeral of Tyshawn Lee -- one of the youngest Chicago residents lost to gun violence this year -- to mourn and remember the boy, Father Michael Pfleger delivered a fiery eulogy indicting the city over the execution of a 9-year-old child.
"[Tyshawn is] a victim of a society that has lost its conscience," Pfleger said at the funeral at St. Sabina Church on Chicago's South Side. "We've lost our conscience, Chicago."
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of the fourth-grader whose murder captured the attention of the nation, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and entertainer Nick Cannon.
Loved ones remembered the young boy for his love of school, macaroni and cheese, video games and basketball -- he dreamed of one day playing in the NBA. His love of the sport was highlighted during a particularly passionate moment of Pfleger's memorial remarks, when he imagined a new basketball team Tyshawn would now join, made up of other victims of violence both in Chicago and around the nation.
"Tyshawn, step on the new court prepared for you," Pfleger said. "Give a high-five to the team that's standing on the court waiting for you."
The Chicago Bulls theme song played in the background as Pfleger listed off the names of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was carrying a toy gun when he was shot and killed by police in 2014; Michael Brown, the Ferguson, Missouri, 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police that same year; Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012; the four young girls who were killed during a 1963 bombing at a Birmingham, Alabama, church, and many others.
Police say that last week, Tyshawn, who was on his way to play basketball, was "lured" into an alley near his grandmother's home in the city's South Side and shot in the back and the face. Authorities suspect the murder may be gang-related.
"Tyshawn Lee was murdered in probably the most abhorrent, cowardly, unfathomable crime that I've witnessed in 35 years of policing," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said last week during a press conference.
Pfleger took to Facebook earlier in the week to express shock and dismay over the death.
Pfleger, who tragically lost his own foster son in gang crossfire in 1998, told CNN that he believes that a "perfect storm" of issues has created the context for the kind of violence that took the life of Tyshawn, like "broken homes, broken neighborhoods, high unemployment, poverty, racism, poor education system" and more.
"But this is is a new level -- we've just gone to a new low," Pfleger said.
In an effort to find witnesses who may have information about Tyshawn's murder, the priest has promised to put up his own money to help relocate anyone who may be hesitant to speak out for fear of retribution.
"I understand the fear," Pfleger said. "I will help them relocate out of my own pocket, some other city, some other place for their safety. If that's what it takes for this person to come forward. We need to put this person in jail."