As people lined up for Holy Communion, only the occasional child's cry broke the sad, heavy silence that on Wednesday morning permeated an Elgin church during the funeral of 5-year-old Eric M. Galarza Jr.
"His tragic death is unacceptable," said the Rev. Adalberto Sanchez, who conducted Mass in Spanish at St. Joseph Catholic Church. "If we don't think about how we act, we end up living in a world where the just pay for the sinners -- and children are not guilty of anything."
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About 300 people gathered to say goodbye to Eric, who was killed the evening of Oct. 7 in Elgin during what police called a gang-related shooting. Dozens wore white T-shirts with an image of the smiling, curly-haired little boy emblazoned in the back with the words "In Loving Memory of Eric."
Sanchez's homily called on people to exercise their higher thinking.
"We are supposed to be a civilized society," he said. "This is what happens when we are not thinking. ... These are consequences of our actions -- the death of an innocent person."
After the funeral, Eric's parents, Eric and Denisse, followed the pallbearers who carried the small, white casket out of the church. Both wore the commemorative T-shirts.
Eric, his parents and his two younger siblings, ages 2 and 5 months, were headed to dinner at Eric's great-grandmother's house when shots rang out as the car, driven by an aunt, pulled out of the driveway of their home in Elgin.
One of Eric's aunts, Maria Isabel Bahena, exhorted anyone with information about Eric's death to come forward. "It's important to have justice," she said.
The little boy had a large extended family of about 100 relatives in the Elgin area, said Eric's great-grandfather, Roberto Bahena. Eric was an affectionate child who loved to play, Bahena said.
As for whoever is responsible for Eric's death, "I ask God to forgive them, and I ask God to help us," Bahena said.
The investigation is ongoing and police are pursuing several leads, Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said Wednesday. Police said the car was targeted in the shooting.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Elgin Police anonymous tip line at (847) 695-4195, or leave an anonymous tip at cityofelgin.org/police.