By SEANNA ADCOX, Associated Press
TOWNVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A 6-year-old boy who died after a teen gunman opened fire at his South Carolina elementary school was dressed as Batman in his small blue casket on Wednesday.
Jacob Hall’s family encouraged mourners at his funeral to dress as superheroes as well.
“We want to honor Jacob, celebrate Jacob, in a way he would love,” his great-aunt, Rebecca Hunnicutt, told the Anderson Independent-Mail (http://bit.ly/2dPTSqO).
Jacob died from a bullet that struck the main artery in his thigh after a 14-year-old boy opened fire at Townville Elementary School. Authorities say the boy killed his own father and then drove a pickup truck to the school, crashing into a playground fence. A classmate and a first-grade teacher also were struck by bullets, and were treated and released from a hospital.
Jacob had told his family he wanted to be a preacher one day, the Rev. Tim Marcengill told a crowd that packed the pews at the family’s Oakdale Baptist Church. “He’s preaching today,” Marcengill said.
“Jacob Lee hall, Townville’s very own superhero, was born into our world, given to us as a gift and through those 6 years up until the very last moment of his life with us, God was and still is today accomplishing his purpose with Jacob,” the reverend said.
A fellow 6-year-old, Lily Gunby, sat in the pews wearing a pink and black Superman shirt. She said Jacob “was really sweet,” and “knew a lot about Jesus.”
Lily’s uncle Derek Gunby says Jacob was “the cutest thing ever” at the church’s Bible school.
John Buckland drove his Batmobile from West Virginia to attend the funeral. Wearing full Batman garb, he gave the kids posters saying “Tough things make me stronger.”
“We’re here to celebrate,” Buckland said. “Take what we’ve learned from Jacob; let it make you a better husband, better father … better everything.”
“Keep an eye on each other. Care about each other, love each other. If someone’s in trouble, reach out and give them the help they need, because Jacob would,” he added.
Townville Elementary school teachers also attended, wearing handmade blue capes with a Ninja Turtle face and Jacob’s name on the back. Jacob’s casket was decorated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle stickers, and figurines of Ninja Turtles and Captain American were in a floral spray on top.
The 14-year-old faces two murder charges in the deaths of his father and Jacob. He also is charged with three counts of attempted murder, as well as five counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
District Superintendent Joanne Avery announced a district-wide moment of silence at 1:42 p.m. Wednesday to mark one week since the shooting. Supporters also released hundreds of balloons Sunday in his honor, and people also crowded into the church Tuesday evening for Jacob’s visitation.
Students won’t return to Townville Elementary until Thursday.
But the district’s other five schools planned to honor Jacob by participating in Superhero Day. All employees and students were invited to come to school in costume, and anyone wanting to attend the funeral would be excused, Avery said.
According to a Facebook page created for Superhero Day, schools across the state planned to participate. But schools in central and coastal South Carolina were closed for the rest of the week because of the approach of Hurricane Matthew.
Family members said Jacob told them he was out saving Townville as others slept.
“He loved anything to do with goodness,” Jacob’s mother, Renae Hall, told WYFF (http://bit.ly/2drFQvL). “He loved anything to do with being able to help somebody. That’s why I say Jacob was going to make a difference and he still is going to make a difference.”