MIAMI -- Several hundred people, many openly weeping, turned out Sunday to say farewell to Aaron Vu, a 10-year-old remembered for his intricate dance moves, his indomitable spirit and energy that never seemed to flag.
"He kept the shop alive with his energy," said LaTara Deshazior, 29, who has known the Miramar boy and his family for years as a client of Hong Kong Nails. "The place is so popular that it is possible to wait up to three hours, and Aaron was the one who kept us entertained."
Aaron, a fifth-grader at Northwest Christian Academy, was fatally shot Nov. 22 at his parents' northwest Dade nail salon during an armed robbery. Two men brandishing handguns burst in about 7:30 p.m. and took some $300 in cash and valuables. As they ran out, one of the gunmen fired two shots.
One hit Aaron's father, Hai Nam Vu, in the left shoulder; the second struck Aaron in the left thigh. According to his family, the bullet perforated an artery and the boy bled to death.
Hai Nam Vu, who turned 43 on Saturday, is still undergoing treatment at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He arrived for the service in a wheelchair and was pushed up to the side of his son's casket. His wife, Lynn Ma, and the couple's two surviving children joined him.
In repose, Aaron clutched a rosary and was surrounded by several of his favorite toys, including a colorful array of small action figures. Projected on a large screen behind the casket were a series of photographs showing Aaron at various stages of his short life: sitting in a bathtub, wearing an oversize hat and blue sunglasses, smiling over a huge birthday cake.
For more than an hour the Vus and other relatives greeted mourners, most of whom hugged the Vietnamese-born parents as dear friends.
"This is the hardest thing my family and I have ever been through," Vu told the mourners, who nearly filled the sanctuary at Northwest Baptist Church. "Everybody here sharing our pain and sorrow helps us. Thanks everyone here for giving us your support."
After the service, Vu planned to return to the hospital, said his aunt, Thi Pham.
One of two suspects seen on surveillance video of the robbery has been arrested. Anthawn Ragan Jr., 19, was taken into custody Tuesday at his sister's house. He was trying to hide under the covers in a bed when detectives nabbed him, according to Miami-Dade police.
Ragan is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery with a firearm, aggravated assault with a firearm and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm. He is being held without bond. The hunt for a second suspect continues, police said.
"We are devastated by the loss of the child," said the Rev. Andrew Summers. "We know that evil exists in this world. The evil we have experienced this past week is undeniable."
Along with his ability to entertain, Aaron was remembered for playing trombone in a school band and taking part in an after-school karate class. He loved performing, whether in the shop for customers waiting to have their nails done, or onstage, said those who knew him. Last year he played a wise man in the Christmas pageant.
Aaron also loved origami, and taught his fourth-grade classmates how to make a crane, according to his family..
Nail salon client Mirna Brooks said she watched Aaron grow up. "This is a heartbreak that no parent should have to go through," said Brooks, 43. "Such a senseless crime. They had what they wanted, why didn't they just leave?"
On Sunday morning, Brooks said, she posted on Instagram a picture of Aaron along with a poem she wrote. "Perhaps my time seemed all too brief," read one stanza. "Don't lengthen it with undue grief."
A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, 5601 S. Flamingo Road, Southwest Ranches. Burial will follow at Hollywood Memorial Gardens, 6301 Taft St.