By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
In three short years, Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney was able to change the city of Birmingham for the better, Police Chief Patrick Smith told a hushed crowd in Linn Park late Wednesday afternoon.
During a candlelight vigil for the little girl in downtown Birmingham, Smith said Kamille was able to accomplish something many couldn’t do in a lifetime.
“A 3-year-old little girl has changed the landscape of the city of Birmingham,” the chief said. “She made us stop and check ourselves to see if we are doing everything we can to keep our children safe from harm; check to see if we are truly the village we promised to be; check to see if we live up to the expectations of tomorrow and watching our children today the way they need to.”
The child, known as “Cupcake” to relatives, vanished while outside a birthday party in the Tom Brown Village housing community.
Smith said the city was a little different before Kamille’s abduction.
“Ten days ago, I felt that we were a very different city,” the chief said. “Maybe we were a little bit too carefree; maybe there is more we could have done to watch over this little child. But today we’ve come face to face with the hurt, the pain and loss of a beautiful little spirit. Let us not take this moment for granted; let us not take these lessons of devastation for granted.”
One way the city has changed is that citizens should “never let our children out of our sights,” Smith said. “Let our eyes be eyes of caring, of passion, of love and compassion for children,” he said. “Let your concerns be heard and watch over your neighbors and your neighbor’s children and we will be a better city.”
The program began beneath a slowly fading sun and in a slight breeze with Mayor Randall Woodfin saying, “we are all Kamille’s family” and introducing the speakers.
William Parker, who was elected by his colleagues as the new Birmingham City Council President on Tuesday, was the first to speak.
“We are truly hurting as a family, as a city; these are tough times but we are going to pull through this,” Parker said. “It is going to take all of us collectively working together to make sure we support the family.”
Parker was followed by Smith who said his officers wanted nothing more than to bring Kamille home safely and “worked endlessly to do that . . .I can’t imagine the pain of the family of Kamille but I want them to know that we as a family stand with them.”
On Tuesday, Smith said police were obtaining murder warrants against two people previously identified as persons of interest in the case, 39-year-old Patrick Devone Stallworth and his 29-year-old girlfriend, Derick Irisha Brown.
Lawyers for both have said they are innocent.
Wednesday’s vigil was a diverse gathering of people from across the Birmingham metro area including various faith-based leaders that included Rev. Julia Conrady, of Unitarian Universal Church of Birmingham; Minister Ashfaq Taufique, of the Birmingham Islamic Society; Rabbi Adam Wright, of Temple Emanu-El and Pastor Mike McClure, Jr. of the Rock Church.
Erica Wright contributed to this story.