On Wednesday, Jan. 15, Payton Benson lost her life when hit by a stray bullet killing her as she ate breakfast in her Omaha home. Her family showed a united front by conducting a news conference after the tragedy--this courageous act inspired me to write this post. Though I never met the little girl; I feel like I know her. Mostly, because of the picture the family portrayed of Payton at the news conference. Like most kids today she liked the usual things makeup, Barbie dolls and zombies. Yes, I said zombies. I would’ve gotten along famously with this little girl. Overall, Payton seemed like a very happy little girl, who was especially excited to start kindergarten, which her family conveyed over and over again.
"She was happy, smiling," said Tabitha Manning, Payton’s mother. "I’m gonna miss her."
Payton’s father added, "I just want my baby back. That's it."
There was also a tone of peace, love and forgiveness by the family in the news conference; especially, by Payton’s mother.
"I would like to ask the community to help me in forgiving those who are responsible for this. I don't want any retaliation," she said.
Later Manning added, "Put your guns down. I’d like to invite the people that are responsible for this to come forward."
Payton was a victim of an apparent drive-by shooting. Neighbors reported hearing more than 20 shots fired from a passing vehicle at a person running down the street. Unfortunately, it was the stray bullet mentioned above that ended Payton’s dream to go to school.
Though arrests have been made a $25,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to more arrests in the death of Payton. Anyone with information is asked to contact Omaha Crime Stoppers at 402.444.7867 or online at http://omahacrimestoppers.net. Three alleged gang members have been arrested for Payton’s murder. I will not name the suspects in this post because I do not want to glorify the perpetrators, or their evil act that was committed on this family and our community. Instead, we celebrate Payton’s life!
Given this tragedy there has been an outpouring of support from total strangers in the Omaha community.
"My daughter is definitely getting a lot of love from the community right now," Manning said.
Even Omaha’s Mayor Jean Stothert gave her condolences to Payton's family. Stothert said, "Your loss is our community's loss."
A memorial fund has been set up to help the Payton Benson family who just recently moved to Omaha. It is the Payton Elise Benson Memorial Fund at American National Bank. Help this community and family heal; donations can be made at any branch.
"Manning added, "I don't want to mourn. I want to celebrate her life."
To honor Payton’s memory the family will not hold a memorial service but a celebration of life gathering instead. Payton’s CELEBRATION OF LIFE in Omaha is set for Thursday, Jan. 23, at 11 a.m. at Clair Memorial United Methodist Church, 5544 Ames Ave. Read her full obituary here.
In conclusion, this post is a celebration of life, with every keystroke and every word you read we are remembering a little girl who won the hearts of Omahans and now population-we™ readers everywhere. Indeed, Payton Benson your memory lives on…God bless!
(Editor’s note: Quotes were taken from the Payton Benson family’s January 16th News Conference at Heartland Workforce Solutions in Omaha.)