MIAMI - The little girl entered the big gymnasium in a stroller, asleep and oblivious to the 3,000 people on hand to pay last respects to her father, Sean Taylor.
Later, 18-month-old Jackie Taylor was wide awake and running wind sprints past the huge flower arrangements in front of the stage. Wearing a red dress, she stood and applauded with the rest of the audience following the introduction of her father’s team, the Washington Redskins.
She waved a milk bottle, sucked on a pacifier and went up and down the front row hugging grieving relatives.
There were plenty of tears at Taylor’s three-hour funeral Monday, but also ripples of laughter and words of inspiration.
“Let me hear you scream!” shouted the Rev. Jesse Jackson, urging the audience to cheer Taylor’s memory.
“One more time! This is a celebration!”
Taylor, 24, died last Tuesday, barely 24 hours after he was shot in the bedroom of his home a few miles from where he grew up.
Police say he was a victim of a botched burglary, and four young men have been charged with unpremeditated murder.
Three of the suspects were transported from Lee County jail to Miami-Dade County jail Monday evening, said Janelle Hall, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County jail.
Charles Wardlow, 18, Jason Mitchell, 19, and Venjah Hunte, 20, were expected to appear in court this morning, Hall said.
The fourth suspect, Eric Rivera, 17, would be processed at a juvenile detention center in Miami-Dade County, Hall said.
A lawyer for one suspect said a fifth suspect was being sought.
“It’s times like this that all of us struggle to find meaning in life,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told mourners.
“Today my heart is broken,” said LaVar Arrington, wiping away tears as he recalled his two years as Taylor’s teammate with the Redskins.
“I’ll get through it. We’ll all get through it.”
The funeral sought closure through prayers, tributes and gospel music. One singer expended so much emotion she collapsed into a chair upon leaving the stage and was carried away in it as the service continued.
Eulogies by family, friends and dignitaries praised Taylor’s baby face, shy smile, kindness, warmth, faith and extraordinary athletic skills.
The list of celebrities in attendance was long.
They included more than two dozen former Hurricanes now in the NFL, among them Edgerrin James, Devin Hester and Jeremy Shockey.
Former Hurricanes coaches Larry Coker and Butch Davis sat in the front row, along with current coach Randy Shannon.
Mourners also included actor Andy Garcia, whose niece, Jackie Garcia, was Taylor’s girlfriend and the mother of their child.