Exactly two years ago this week, the River Cities Gazette shared a story about local teenager E’Maiyne Pittman, who went missing for months. That story had a happy ending with E’Maiyne returning home safely. Last week’s story has a tragic ending. E’Maiyne, who had just celebrated her 16th birthday, was killed on Nov. 5 in an overnight shooting that occurred in Allapattah.
The shooting happened just after midnight in front of a home at 1467 NW 34th St. According to witnesses, two gunmen ran up to the van where Pittman and 26-year-old Pedro Nunez were standing when shots were fired. Nunez was treated and released from Jackson Memorial Hospital with a wound to the side of his head. Pittman, however, died at the hospital.
E’Maiyne Pittman was a student at Miami Springs Senior High School. She and her mother, Hesterine Pittman, are longtime members of Grace Lutheran Church. Many of the same friends who gathered at Grace Lutheran back in November of 2011 to search for missing E’Maiyne were amongst the more than 150 people who gathered on Saturday, Nov. 9 for her funeral.
“When a young person dies it brings much sadness to the family, in this case to the mother, the friends, the youth and all the members of this parish,” Rev. Dr. David Imhoff said as he addressed the church. “When they are a victim of a senseless, horrific homicide, by people who have no value for human life, not their own, and certainly not the lives of others, it is tragic. We live in a world full of evil people and even though many of you may not believe in the devil, trust me, the presence is such an evil force in our world, it’s sadly obvious. It’s what our law enforcement officers deal with every day.”
Although there was an obvious police presence outside the church, the mood inside was that of celebration. The funeral service was actually called a “Celebration of Eternal Life,” and a celebration it was. Many teenagers stepped out of their comfort zone to speak and share stories. They shared stories of happier times and cherished memories. From Christian concerts to youth mission trips, from bowling to swimming, to trips that included E’Maiyne riding a tricycle through the isles of Wal-Mart to buy toys for needy children, each and every story included laughter and joy from E’Maiyne.
“This was not God’s will, because we know God is loving, forgiving and merciful, even when we stray, and we all stray,” said Pastor Imhoff. “As parents and leaders in our community we are constantly preaching to our young people that the choices we make have consequences. It’s so important that young people choose to hang around good friends, not friends that just quote, have their back, but friends who don’t tempt them, who don’t lure them and that don’t deceive them; friends who do what is best by them, who keep them from bad choices, and away from the subculture of our society.
“Indeed it does take a village to raise a child. One parent, two parents, three grandparents, or four aunts and uncles, are often not able to talk sense into those of us who live on the edge of life. E’Maiyne was a full member of our activities and our ministries and to read and to hear otherwise is not the whole story, it’s not even the true story. Like the story of the prodigal son, the father is ready to retrieve us and forgive us. There’s nothing we can do to forfeit God’s love for us.”
Photos in the bulletin showed E’Maiyne enjoying the sunshine and smiling with her mother by her side. Another photo was of E’Maiyne with her church family and youth group. Throughout the service, tears ran down the faces of many, as Pastor Imhoff delivered a strong and heartfelt message to every ear that would listen.
“We pray that the law enforcement will bring those responsible to justice and I believe in time, they will. But that’s not our concern today. Today we ponder, where do we go from here? How can we stop our young people from ending up like this? How can we do battle with the forces of evil? How can we smile again and laugh again? We can start by knowing the truth about God. Our God has always been our help in ages past and will continue to be our hope for all the years to come. Our God is an almighty fortress, doing battle for us even though there are roaring lions seeking to undo us. Our God has an amazing Grace that saves all of us sinners.”
Pastor Imhoff concluded his message with a sweet memory and assurance for the family of believers who gathered. “E’Maiyne stood here in this church and said I do believe in Jesus Christ, who is my Lord and Savior. E’Maiyne once lit these candles, and carried this cross, just as the young people behind me are doing for her today.”
The service concluded with the classic hymn, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
“We believe that Jesus loves all the children,” said Imhoff, “not just the good ones that are compliant and who go to bed when you tell them to, but all the children — black, white, brown, old, young, poor, and rich children. E’Maiyne is now feeling that love in person right now.”
Police have not released a motive for the shooting or a description of the gunmen. If you have any information, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.