Colleagues of slain Chicago Police Officer Aréanah Preston rise to their feet during funeral
Those who served with slain Chicago Police Officer Aréanah Preston rose to their feet during her funeral Wednesday to “show her how much we loved her.”
“She wasn’t alone with us,” said Calumet District Cmdr. Tyrone Pendarvis. “We looked out for her. … We look out for each other. We are a family.”
The officers wore yellow ribbons, Preston’s favorite color.
Pendarvis told a packed Trinity United Church of Christ that Preston immediately made herself known when she reported to his district.
“I want you to know this name with this face. That’s who I am,’ Pendadrvis recalled. “I was [taken] off guard because I’m like, hey, I’m the commander. But she put me right in my place and let me know, hey, you’re just the commander but I am Aréanah.”
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Mayor Brandon Johnson and interim Police Supt. Fred Waller were among the mourners who gathered outside the chuch as Preston’s white casket arrived in a hearse, draped in the city’s flag.
Cries from the family pierced through the sound of the bagpipes.
Preston was fatally wounded early May 6 when she exchanged gunfire with a group of robbers who approached her as she returned home from work still wearing her police uniform.
Four teenagers were charged in the killing last week and denied bail. Though she was off-duty at the time, Preston’s slaying is being considered a line-of-duty death.
Preston’s mother, Dionne Mhoon, told those gathered that her daughter was a “kid full of life, dreams, big goals and wanted to make major changes.”
“In this tragic situation, my family and I feel triumph,” she said. “We feel grace. We feel the love. We feel the hugs. And most importantly, we feel God’s presence over us. There is a presence of Aréanah’s presence saying, keep going, momma. You always wanted to be like me.”
Mhoon said she now plans “to lead, love and be just like you, brave and bold with a warm spirit and a contagious smile.”
“Death is only a tragic thing if you have not lived. My baby lived,” she said to applause. “I am because of her. I pray for peace in homes. I pray for peace in our communities, and I pray for peace in my heart.
“Rest peacefully, my sweet baby. Momma has it from here.”
Eric Carter, who retired Monday as the city’s acting top cop, described Preston as “sincere, thoughtful, witty, well organized, and goal oriented, and outgoing, and definitely a ray of sunshine.”
“She brightened every room she walked into and put a smile on everyone’s face,” Carter said. “Her presence was unmistakable and she was unforgivable. Aréanah was a daughter of Chicago, born and raised right here in this city.”
Carter noted that Preston and his daughter were both members of the cheerleading team at UIC College Prep, where his wife served as their assistant coach.
Preston was the team’s “flyer,” he said, performing “terrific, terrifying” stunts and positioning herself on the top of the pyramid.
Preston then attended Illinois State University, graduating a year early with a degree in criminal justice that “was cemented by her passion for public safety and public service,” Carter said.
“She wanted to be a voice for the voiceless,” Carter said. “But when Aréanah told her mother Dionne about her plans to become a Chicago police officer, she was definitely concerned — and understandably so.”
Though Preston’s mother worried about her daughter’s small stature, she knew “there was a way about Aréanah.”
“When she set her mind to something, she never gave up and she never gave in,” Carter said. “She set goals and she achieved every one of them.”
Over the weekend, Preston’s mother accepted her posthumous master’s degree in jurisprudence from Loyola University of Chicago over the weekend.
Carter said she had her sights on joining the FBI.
“Her application got accepted and she was just waiting on her final interview when this tragic incident happened,” he said. “Aréanah always knew she could make a difference, and that she would make a difference.”
Johnson noted that Preston “knew that laying her life down even for those who do not always value life … is the exemplary example of righteousness.”
“Aréanah devoted her life to the very principles of justice and peace,” Johnson said. “And Aréanah obviously walked uprightly in her life, and so now she gets to rest in that peace.”
He acknowledged the city “has so much to do to restore hope and promise” but said Preston’s life “teaches us the importance of doing the right thing, especially when it’s hard.”
“Though her watch has ended, her dedication to justice and her commitment to serving this city will live forever,” he said. “God thank you for the gift of Aréanah. God thank you for the gift of life.”
Preston’s killing happened a little more than two months after Officer Andrés Mauricio Vásquez-Lasso was fatally shot near a Gage Park elementary school as he pursued an armed suspect who had threatened his girlfriend.
Steven Montano, 19, is charged in the killing and is being held without bail.