Shooting victims remembered at vigil, and by the survivors

rdymond@bradenton.comSeptember 17, 2011 

PALMETTO -- A dozen concerned citizens attended a candlelight vigil Friday night for the 24 victims of a mass shooting attack a week ago at Palmetto’s Club Elite.

They joined hand in prayer in front of the club where two people were killed and 22 wounded on Sept. 10 in the worst mass shooting in Manatee County history.

Palmetto’s Leanitre Kinder, who is part of a group that is putting on another anti-violence rally that she promises will be well attended at 5 p.m. today at the Palmetto Police Department, led the impromptu prayers.

“This madness has got to stop,” Kinder said as she held hands with others at the crime scene where paint encircles bullet holes in the wall.

The father of Kinder’s children, Jonny Brice, was one of those in the club who was wounded by gunfire, Kinder said.

Palmetto’s Marvin Toney, 56, one of those praying, said that young people have gone too far.

“When I was coming up we fought with our fists and, the next day, we were in love again,” Toney said.

One citizen brought a sign that read, “How much bloodshed is enough? Stop the killing.”

Another sign said, “Put the gun down.”

Chief Rick Wells of the Palmetto Police Department stood near the club along with about a half dozen on his men and listened to the speeches that were being made.

“This is the community talking,” Wells said when asked if he thought Palmetto residents have had enough gun violence.

Judy Smith of Palmetto gave Wells and his crew a vote of confidence.

“I want to shake each of your hands,” Smith said. “You are doing a good job and we are with you.”

Funerals for Gwenette Matthews and Trayon Goff Sr., the two victims killed in the gunfire, are scheduled today.

Matthews was attending a ‘girls night out’ party thrown by her girlfriends when she died at Club Elite on Sept 10.

“I’ve known Gwenette for 26 years and she wasn’t a club person,” Matthews’ brother-in-law, the Rev. Cory Brinson of Spiritual House of Praise, said Friday afternoon.

Matthews, who was a nurse, went to the club that night only because one of her friends requested that she join them, Brinson said.

“One of her friends told me she was demanding that Gwenette come to the club so they could all hang out and have fun, and Gwenette died in that friend’s arms,” Brinson said.

Brinson’s sister, Valerie Matthews, has been married to Gwenette Matthews’ brother for 26 years.

“Gwenette was standing next to a table inside the club with several other friends all there for a party,” Brinson said. “She got struck, went down and died almost instantly.

“The friend who held her later fainted and woke up outside the club,” Brinson said.”

Most of the injured at the club that night were standing inside the club.

At least two gunmen, armed with what police suspect were AK-47 and AR-15 military-style rifles, said Palmetto Police Detective Chad Oyler.

Brinson has organized a meeting of pastors and the public 4 p.m. Monday at Courtyard Marriott Bradenton, 100 Riverfront Dr, Bradenton.

“Gwenette was a peaceable person,” said Brinson who will officiate Matthews’ funeral service 2 p.m. today at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 525 Ninth Avenue E., Bradenton.

“She was loving,” Brinson added. “She had a smile that became contagious when she entered a room. She was a humble, beautiful lady who loved her kids and family. For me, this hit close to home.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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