Honestie Hodges, who was handcuffed outside her home in Michigan at age 11 in an incident that prompted national outrage, died on Sunday aged 14.
Her grandmother, Alisa Niemeyer, said in posts online the 14-year-old died from Covid-19.
“It is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all of you that my beautiful, sassy, smart loving Granddaughter has gone home to be with Jesus,” Niemeyer posted on the fundraising site GoFundMe.
The fundraiser was started to help Honestie’s family cover the costs of treatment and to pay for other forms of care such as food and rent because her mother had to stop working while her daughter was hospitalized.
The fundraising page features several picture of Honestie with her family and friends, as well as an image from a candlelight vigil held in her honor this week.
“She could have been the vice-president one day or maybe the president,” Niemeyer told local news station Wood TV on Monday. “The world was open to her.”
Niemeyer said Honestie tested positive for Covid-19 on 9 November, her birthday, and was sent back to her home in Grand Rapids. Later that night, she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after experiencing stomach pains. She said her granddaughter had no underlying conditions, but her health rapidly deteriorated in the hospital and she was placed on a ventilator.
“There was no way we thought this was ever going to happen,” Niemeyer said. “You know [we thought], ‘She is going to get better; she is going to come home and we are going to have a birthday party.’”
Honestie was first thrust into the national spotlight in December 2017. The then 11-year-old, her mother and another relative had left their home to go to the store, when police officers confronted them with their guns drawn and handcuffed them. The officers had been searching for a middle-aged white woman suspected in connection to a stabbing.
Police body camera footage from the incident showed Honestie crying and screaming “No, please,” as officers handcuffed her. The officers involved were not disciplined because they hadn’t violated any department policies.
Watch: Police officers handcuff 11-year-old Honestie Hodges
At the time, Honestie told a local news site, MLive.com: “I have a question for the Grand Rapids police: If this happened to a white child, if her mother was screaming, ‘She’s 11,’ would you have handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police car?”
In response to the incident, the police department created the “Honestie Policy” to specify how to interact with children at crime scenes, though community members have said the department needs to do more.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Grand Rapids NAACP chapter president, Cle J Jackson, encouraged community members to honor Honestie by following public health guidance to protect themselves and their loved ones from the spread of Covid-19.
The US this week has seen a record high of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, as the illnesses spreads across the country. Throughout the pandemic, Black, Indigenous and Latino Americans have been infected and died from Covid-19 at a disproportionate rate. These populations have a death rate triple or more than white Americans, according to the APM Research Lab.
And though children rarely die from Covid-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Hispanic and Black children were more likely than white children to be hospitalized or admitted to an ICU.
Jackson said: “This is an opportunity for you to really honor her life fully honor her life by doing what is necessary, what is needed and that is limit your movement, limit your movement, we have to.”