Pastor: 4 year old hit by CPD vehicle was a "sweet young lady"
COLUMBIA - The pastor planning the funeral for 4-year-old girl who died after being struck Friday by a Columbia police vehicle said she had "a great smile."
Rev. James Gray, who is working with Gabriella Curry's family to plan her funeral, said in her classroom, "she was the smallest one of them all with the biggest heart that you would ever meet."
"The teachers loved her. The students loved her," Gray said. "And so, you know, that's what we got to remember: the smile and the love that she had for other people."
Gray said a visitation will be held Friday and the service on Saturday.
The best way for the community to help is to donate to the family through the funeral home, said Gray, who was the speaker at Saturday's vigil for Gabriella at Battle High School.
He said a scholarship in Gabriella's name is planned to help pay for her three siblings' college education.
Gabriella's parents are school bus drivers, Gray said.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Gray asked people to avoid posting negative comments on Facebook.
Investigators said Officer Andria Heese was driving her SUV up onto a sidewalk Friday afternoon to monitor school buses at Battle High School when she struck Gabriella. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said she later died at the hospital.
Heese is a member to the department's Community Outreach Unit. The city's website said she was assigned to the East Strategic Plan Neighborhood.
In a July 2018 interview with a KOMU 8 reporter, Heese said her unit visits schools.
"That has showed so much benefits in kids just not being afraid of us. They come up and say 'hi' to us," Heese said. "They ask for stickers now. They know us by name in the schools we go to, and that is a huge relationship builder."
In the interview, she said she looks to go beyond just responding to calls by seeing ways police can make problems better.
Gray said people need to pray for Heese.
"It's going to be with her for the rest of her life," Gray said.
Additional counseling support is available to faculty, staff and students, according to CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark.
As for the investigation into the incident, Sgt. Scott White said the highway patrol's Major Crash Investigation Unit will conduct a comprehensive reconstruction. The full investigation usually takes a month or more, he said.