A tearful Tabatha Manning stepped into the public eye Thursday afternoon with a message about forgiveness as she wrestled with the grief of losing her daughter to gunfire meant for someone else.
Five-year-old Payton Benson was shot to death Wednesday morning. A shot fired a block away found a path to her home where it ended her life as she finished her breakfast.
At a news conference one day later, her mother Tabatha said, “I want my daughter’s memory to be love, not hate."
Tabatha introduced Omaha to a young girl most hadn’t known.
“She was always so happy; smiling. She would just follow you and smile at you all day. She just loved makeup and, oh my God, I am going to miss her."
She told us about her soft-spoken child. “She almost sounded like she was whispering," her mother said.
Payton was excited about the prospect of beginning school. Her family said she would pack her backpack nearly every day in anticipation.
Payton’s father, Marvin Benson told us, “I just want my baby back.”
Beyond the loss and the grief, the family brought a strong message of forgiveness to share with the community, along with a call for change.
Tabatha said, “Help me in forgiving the people that are responsible for this. I don't want any retaliation, no anger."
But she wants the violence to stop.
"Put your guns down,” she said. I would like to invite the people who are responsible for this to come forward. I would like to forgive you personally."
Tabatha said the hardest moment for her was breaking the news to her other children.
“My four-year-old actually told the oldest two before I had a chance to. And they told me that he was lying. They told me what he said, and they said ‘mommy he is lying.’ And I had to tell them no, he is not. It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do."
On Thursday, Payton’s six-year-old brother LaTrelle Benson told the crowd assembled for the news conference, “This is not fair that people are dying. Not fair at all.”