Rally bridges police-resident gap

lmorel@bradenton.comJanuary 8, 2012 

PALMETTO -- Days before the four-month anniversary of one of the worst shootings in Manatee County, about 500 people gathered at Lincoln Park on Saturday during this year’s first anti-violence rally organized by churches.

“It’s all about stopping the violence,” said the Rev. Willie J. Holley, pastor of Pathways Christian Fellowship.

Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells said that although other rallies have been held in Palmetto in the past, this rally was more family-oriented.

The sheriff’s office and Palmetto police were also present. Gospel music was played and hotdogs and refreshments were available.

Firefighters from the North River Fire District were also at the event giving out free T-shirts, hats and smoke detectors.

Some church members said they’ve had enough of the violence.

Sylvia Smith said that what bothers her the most is people who know information about violent crimes, but don’t speak up to authorities.

“If you know the truth and you witnessed it, tell it,” she said.

On Sept. 10, gunmen fired at Club Elite at 704 10th St. W., in Palmetto. Two people were killed and 22 others were injured.

No arrests have been made.

But Palmetto police Lt. Scott Tyler said “the case continues to be very active.”

“There continues to be developments, but there’s nothing we want to release in the public,” Tyler said, only adding that detectives recently received information from a Crime Stoppers tip that they are looking into.

Palmetto police also submitted evidence to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement right after the shooting. They are waiting for results.

In December, Tyler said $100 had been donated to the award money available for information in the Club Elite shooting. The grand total is now $21,100.

“I know the community is frustrated,” Tyler said, adding that the department wants the investigation to be “as thorough as it can possibly be.”

Smith knows first-hand the damage that the Club Elite shooting has caused to the community. She said she is friends with the niece of Gwenette Matthews, 38, of Bradenton. Matthews was killed during the shooting.

“We were all affected by that,” Smith said. “The police only have so much they can do if they don’t have information.”

Carmen Shorey and Smith said they were at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration last year when shots were fired. During that incident, two people were injured.

Both women took cover under Shorey’s truck. “I could have gotten shot,” Shorey said.

Shorey said she is the cousin of one of the injured Club Elite victims, who has undergone two surgeries to repair her intestine and is still recovering.

Pastor Cory Brinson of the Spiritual House of Praise Ministries said the rally served to “bridge the gap” between law enforcement and residents with the hopes that people will come forward if they have information on a violent crime.

“It’s to bring us all together so that we can be one nucleus,” Brinson said.

Brinson said the Manatee Minister’s Anti-Violence Task Force organized the rally. The task force was launched after the Club Elite shooting. Since then, it has spearheaded several events in the community.

“The Club Elite incident is really what parachuted us,” Brinson said.

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