Isaiah Ward liked to watch cartoons, play video games and shoot hoops with his pals. He was a hardworking student with a radiant smile. He also had a mischievous streak.
When his teacher at Bethune Elementary School in Northwest Atlanta asked her class to line up, he would play hide-and-seek. Autumn Barnes would send him to the back of the line when she found him. That was OK because Isaiah always wanted to be the caboose.
“Now let’s talk for a minute about that smile — that amazing smile,” Barnes said. “He would look back at me with those eyes that craved knowledge. I would always know when he got it by that satisfaction in his smile.”
Barnes was among scores of grieving friends and family who said goodbye to Isaiah at a funeral service Tuesday in Northwest Atlanta, less than a mile from where Atlanta police say a motorist under the influence of heroin plowed his car into the 9-year-old boy, his older brother and a friend this month.
As they entered Lindsay Street Baptist Church, mourners filed past Ward’s light blue coffin with silver trim. He was dressed in a white suit with a blue bow tie. A black baseball bat sat tucked inside the little athlete’s coffin. A basketball and a soccer ball rested on pedestals flanking him. His mother, Michelle, lingered beside her son’s coffin, a sob shaking her.
Ward was walking along a sidewalk near Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Mayson Turner Road when he was struck. He was with his older brother, 11-year-old Roland, and a friend, 12-year-old Timothy Hood. Roland, who suffered a broken pelvis and broken leg in the incident, watched Tuesday’s proceedings from a wheelchair.
In a stirring eulogy, the Rev. Anthony Motley, the church’s pastor, said children like Isaiah should be able to walk about their own communities in safety. Then he quoted Matthew 18:6, which focuses on God’s love of children and the trouble that can come to those who harm them.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble,” the passage says, “it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
Motley mentioned the passage in connection with Ryan Lisabeth, 28, of Canton, the suspect who is facing multiple charges in the incident, including vehicular homicide in the first degree, driving under the influence of heroin and possession of heroin. He was denied bond last week.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his office is looking into whether Lisabeth should face a more severe charge. Meanwhile, Atlanta police have so far not released their reports detailing the incident and Lisabeth’s arrest, saying they are still working on the documents.
Mourners sang “The Saints Go Marching On” as they prepared to carry Isaiah’s coffin outside. A bright white hearse drawn by two white horses was waiting just outside the door. With tears streaming down her cheeks, Isaiah’s mother watched intently as her son was taken away.
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