JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two weeks after Vernell Bing Jr., 22, was shot and killed by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office veteran Tyler Landreville, family members and friends laid Bing to rest.
The funeral was Saturday at First New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. A sign read, "In memory of Vernell Bing Jr., Stop The Killings." Although people did say goodbye to Bing, they're saying that this isn't the ending of his life, but the beginning of social change.
The Rev. Dr. James B. Sampson led the congregation in the chant inside, but it was a mere echo of the sentiment of those walking in.
“Well, one of the things what I feel like we've got to do is have a serious conversation about race," Denise Hunt said. "Nobody wants to talk about that. No. 2, we've got to organize and mobilize our young people to get more involved and vote and get involved in City Council. Like I said, get civically engaged. Start demanding answers. Start coming out. Start making your presence known."
One might get uncomfortable thinking of a funeral as a political soapbox, but for Hunt and others paying their last respects to Bing, it was very appropriate.
Hunt only met the Bing family during one the rallies at Ninth and Liberty, where Bing was fatally shot by Landreville. It happened after police say Bing stole a red Camaro, after having been seen driving in a shooting a month earlier, and tried to stop him.
Instead, the JSO said Bing led officers on a high-speed, 3.7-mile chase that ended at Ninth and Liberty in Springfield.
Police said Bing rammed Landreville's cruiser head-on. After Bing didn't follow orders, Landreville fired five shots. One hit Bing, who was unarmed.
"Dr. (Martin Luther) King said, ‘How long will justice be crucified?'" Sampson said.
Quoting civil rights leaders, Sampson energized the audience with the goal of effecting change politically.
"Take your souls to the poll," Sampson said.
As the casket with Bing's body was carried out of the church and his mother was walked out with loved ones on both sides of her, Hunt said even though it looks sad, this is a symbol of hope.
"In a way, you know, in the black community, we see hope," Hunt said. "We see hope even in any kind of home going. We call it a home going service. What they should recognize is that their lives matter. That they have got to learn to appreciate life, you know, and they've got to take control of their lives."
Landerville is on administrative leave, which is normal policy in an officer-involved shooting. The JSO is conducting an internal investigation, which Sheriff Mike Williams said body cameras would be helpful if his department had the budget for them.