Churches may hold key to Palmetto shootings arrest

Local pastor says witnesses ready to talk if protected

rdymond@bradenton.comSeptember 19, 2011 

MANATEE -- There is an expression among African-American church leaders that goes, “Listen to what the street is saying.”

On Sunday, the street was buzzing with names of those suspected of killing two people and wounding 22 at the Club Elite on Sept. 10 and of the fears of citizens about telling police what they know, said The Rev. Cory Brinson of Spiritual House of Praise.

“The streets have a different language, but sometimes that language can be truth,” Brinson said.

Brinson, who is hosting a meeting of roughly 50 pastors from all denominations at 4 p.m. today at Courtyard Marriott in downtown Bradenton to discuss the gun violence issue, said he believes the community is getting close to seeing an arrest in the case, maybe in the next few days.

“I do not know the names of those who committed the crime but I know there are those that do,” Brinson said Sunday.

A call to Lt. Scott Tyler of the Palmetto Police Department for comment was not immediately returned.

Brinson’s meeting is one of several events scheduled in the next few days and weeks to deal with gun violence.

St. Luke’s Primitive Baptist Church, 540 12th St. Drive W., Palmetto, is planning a day of healing for harm done by the Palmetto shootings, said Gail Mays, a church spokesperson.

The service is set for noon to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Also, the Coalition of Concerned Patriots is taking up the issue of gun violence when it meets 4:30-6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Manatee County Library’s South Branch, said The Rev. Don Thompson, a member of the group.

Brinson said he and a group of other pastors have been having conversations with congregation members who know valuable information and law enforcement officials about how to keep these witnesses safe.

“We want to make sure that those who come forward will be protected and they don’t have to fear for their lives,” Brinson said. “The witnesses know that the criminals shot 24 people while trying to kill a few and they would think nothing of shooting them, too.”

The witnesses have family members that could be retaliated upon, Brinson added.

“We pastors want to share some things we have learned with officials, including police, school board and others,” Brinson said. “Our whole goal is that the families impacted by this have children in our school district so it could be a snowball effect for them.”

This is a different street talk than usual, Brinson said.

“We are not turning our heads,” Brinson said. “The people are sick of the violence, month after month, year after year. We want the suspects to know they are not taking over our city.”

Thompson, who lives near State College of Florida, was trained in nonviolence by Dr. Martin Luther King in the early 1960s.

Besides being a member of the Coalition of Concerned Patriots, Thompson is part of a transitional support group that meets 5-6:30 p.m. Sundays at Congregational United Church of Christ in Bradenton.

Asked how King would handle the Palmetto shooting, Thompson said the legendary leader would start with a prayer.

“The prayer would be so moving that you would feel his spirit incorporated into the effort,” Thompson said.

Thompson said he learned from King that the worst things that a human could do was to take a life, including his or her own.

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