By Lee Hubbard
Two brothers who were shot in a Richmond church this past Sunday, are now assisting Richmond police officers in the case.
The church shooting, which has sparked national media interest, took place after three young black men in hooded black sweatshirts began shooting two young church patrons at the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ at 2100 Roosevelt Street in Central Richmond.
The hooded young men, walked in the church and up and down an aisle during the church service. They then left the church, with one of the young men returning back into the church, shooting a gun, which hit two teenagers sitting in the back pews. As the shots rang out, the congregants sought refuge behind the pews. The shooters rapidly fled the scene.
The injured teenagers were rushed to the hospital with non-lethal injuries. One was shot in the arm , the other in the shoulder.
“This could have been a lot worse,” said Sgt. Bisa French. He reported that Richmond police now have leads on two of the suspects who are believed to be in their late teens or early 20s.
Churches, which have historically been considered “holy ground” or places that are off-limits during street mayhem., now have been rudely violated. Houses of worship and their leaders have been traditionally accorded the covering graces of the biblical phrase “touch not thine annointed and do thy prophet (nor his sanctuary) no harm..”But with this latest shooting, many Richmond activists are questioning if this stands true today, as they questioned the callousness of the crime. One minister said this “shooting reminds us of the church mafia-like killings of the Godfather movie. My God who would have thought that Gethsemane would be the scene of a horror movie.”
“Being a minister, we have to remember what type of battle we are involved in,” said George Brown, a preacher and community activist with Totally Lead Ministries, a non-profit that does street ministering in Richmond. “The devil found someone who was on his team and they did his work, so the location really didn’t matter.”
Brown lost his son to a street shooting in Richmond July 6 of last year, so news of the church shooting touched him. He said the black community has to go back to the basics.
“We as ministers and pastors, have to step up and be involved with the community,” continued Brown. “We have to show young men more love.”
The Reverend Wynford Williams of the All Nations Church of God in Christ in North Richmond agreed with Brown that churches need to do more outreach to black youth on the streets. He added that the shooting also points to a generational problem within the black community.
“Nowadays we are dealing with youth who were latch-key kids, as parents have to work more and more to keep a roof over there heads,” said Williams. “We are also dealing with kids who were born as drug babies. While the church needs to do more, things can’t be fixed by the church by itself. It takes parents, community people and city involvement.”
While the police look for the suspects, there has been talk of retaliation on the shooters. But Richmond pastors are trying to prevent this violent response to the church shootings.
“These young people are so angry,” said the Reverend Andre Shumake Sr., president of the Richmond Improvement Association, a coalition of 80 church congregations, helping to plan an anti-violence rally on March 6. “We’re trying to say, no – that’s not the correct way to respond.”