Photo caption: Aréanah Preston
With heavy hearts and tears, hundreds on Wednesday, May 17, packed Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights to say goodbye to fallen Officer Aréanah Preston, the bright 24-year-old whose promising career in law enforcement ended tragically with a fatal robbery attempt at her South Side home.
It was a grand sendoff befitting a beloved officer who touched many lives during her short career as a Chicago police officer.
Funeral services began with the solemn tunes of Irish bagpipes filling the streets of Washington Heights, before Preston’s white casket, covered with the City of Chicago flag, was carried into the church as her distraught mother followed.
Inside, an army of officers from Preston’s District 5 Precinct filled five pews as a large photo of the fallen officer, smiling and dressed in yellow, her favorite color, was projected on a screen.
As the church’s choir sang hymns, mourners passed large floral arrangements placed in the sanctuary, including one that spelled “005,” the police precinct where Preston served as a budding Chicago officer.
The thick funeral program highlighting Preston’s brief life was filled with 20 pages of photos of her throughout the years. The photos showed her as a toddler, an active teenager, a beloved police officer known as “Princess P” and a community leader known for her compassion for elderly residents and love for her neighbors.
Included in the program were tributes from friends, relatives and colleagues. Her mother, Dionne Mhoon, dedicated an entire page to her daughter. During the funeral service, Mhoon spoke.
“As a mother my heart is heavy. But as a mother of faith, better days are coming ahead because I gave my baby everything I had and then some.”
During his nearly six-minute speech, Mayor Brandon Johnson described Preston as “a very compassionate human being.”
Johnson also said Preston “knew that [she was] laying her life down for those who do not always value life. That is the exemplary example of righteousness. And to all the officers who serve and put your lives on the line for the people of Chicago, you are the righteous standards.
“Aréanah devoted her life to the very principles of justice and peace. And Aréanah obviously walked rightly in her life, so now she gets to rest in that peace.”
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Preston was “by all accounts wise beyond her years.”
Lightfoot said she was impressed when she learned Preston traveled to Poland and Germany to learn about genocide.
“That’s where she decided to be a police office,” Lightfoot said. “Aréanah Preston was exactly the person we want to recruit for our police department: passionate and bold.
“Aréanah chose to change the world by wearing the badge and protecting our city.”
Fred Waller, interim police superintendent, said Preston “wanted to be a voice for the voiceless.” But when Aréanah told her mother she wanted to be a police officer, she was definitely concerned.
Waller said Preston applied for a position with the FBI. He said her application was accepted, and she was waiting for a second interview.
In his stirring eulogy, Reverend Otis Moss III called Preston a “phenomenal woman” who came from a “phenomenal family.”
“What made her phenomenal was a simple word known as character. What you do when no one else is looking is character. In those quiet moments, we witnessed character.
“She is with us in memory, in spirit and in love. And her works shall be forever engraved on our hearts.”
Resolutions from Alderman Michelle Harris (8th), Congressman Jonathan Jackson and the Illinois Legislature were read during the service.
Preston was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island.
Preston’s funeral capped an emotional period of mourning that included a heavily attended visitation at the Blake-Lamb Funeral Home a day before her homegoing service.
Preston graduated from UIC College Prep before earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration from Illinois State University in 2016.
While working for the Chicago Police Department the past three years, Preston studied for a master’s in jurisprudence at Loyola University Chicago. Preston was slated to graduate last Saturday, May 13; her mother accepted the degree on her daughter’s behalf.
Preston was on her way home from her shift at the Calumet District police precinct on May 6 when four teenagers passed her in a sedan, and circled back in her direction. Authorities said three of them approached and tried to rob her.
They exchanged gunfire with Preston as she stood, still in her uniform, near her home in the 8100 block of South Blackstone Avenue, police said.
Preston was shot at least twice. One teen grabbed her gun and they fled as she lay dying.
Preston was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
Interim Police Superintendent Eric Carter said the teens, 19-year-old Trevell Breeland, 19-year-old Joseph Brooks, 18-year-old Jakwon Buchanan and 16-year-old Jaylan Frazier, who is being charged as an adult, are charged with first degree murder, as well as multiple counts of armed robbery, arson, burglary, possession of a stolen vehicle and unlawful use of a weapon.