BRADENTON -- The brazen Aug. 1 killing of Brenton Coleman Sr. in the parking lot of the 13 AV Dream Center, 1011 24th St. E., remains extremely painful.
Coleman was holding his 5-year-old when he was shot by two gunmen with as many as 400 people nearby watching the end of a Manatee Mustang football practice.
Since the shooting, Patrick Carnegie, director of the Dream Center, said he concluded something drastic must be done to reclaim homes, neighborhoods and youth from crime.
Carnegie took action Sunday.
He asked senior pastor, the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr. of the 4,000-member Mount Zion Progressive Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, to preside over a special spiritual service to uplift Manatee County. Murphy called it SOS, or Savior of Souls.
"I felt we needed a spiritual uplifting in our community to get us started," Carnegie said.
A crowd of about 350 attended the event, but several Manatee County leaders, including Susie Copeland of the Manatee NAACP, said they were disappointed about two-thirds of attendees were from St. Petersburg.
"Our Manatee churches must do more," Copeland said after the event.
Carnegie's second major step was to call for 100 men from the community to meet at the Center at 4 p.m. Sept. 8, to begin preparations for a march into the streets to save young people immersed in crime -- one youth at a time.
"We've got to go to them," said Lt. John Murrell, supervisor of resource officers for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, and one of the 100 men already signed up. "They are not filling the churches. We've got to go get them."
Carnegie said the 100 men will take on many different jobs as time goes on, including acting as a response team to neighborhoods where there has been a shooting.
"People remember the killings, but in the last few weeks we have probably had 20 non-fatal shootings in our neighborhoods," Carnegie said.
The Rev. Jerry Parrish,
who works through the YMCA to help youths avoid crime, made a passionate plea Sunday to Manatee County men to come to the Dream Center for the "100 Men March on the Streets."
"The great thing about God is that he doesn't need everyone, just a couple of people to say, 'I am sick of this.' " Parrish said. "I'm going to try and get 500 men here on Sept. 8. I want to reach out to Christian men who are serious about Jesus and seeing our city change. You need to be here. We need all races, colors, denominations. We need to take our homes back and our kids back. As far as I am concerned, some of those 100 men could be Christian women who want to help."
Carnegie thought the person doing the spiritual uplifting Sunday had to be someone who could rouse the crowd to action: Murphy Sr., who gave his take on how to rescue youth from crime backed by the church's powerful co-ed gospel choir, its youth drum line and two dance units, Pure Expressions and Mime Adult Warriors of Praise.
"I think it was a great idea to have an uplifting for the community," said longtime Manatee County educator Lynette Edwards. "I really think this is what it is will take."
Murphy told the crowd the youngsters who committed murder at the Dream Center did not grow up aspiring to be criminals.
"No one grows up wanting to be a murderer or drug dealer," Murphy preached in a dynamic fashion. He made it clear he believes the way to end crime is through faith.
"What happened is that they became empty. Anyone who can hold a gun and point it at another person, then pull the trigger, then feel the recoil and know a bullet will hit flesh, is empty inside.
"Think about a person with no regard for life. That is an empty person. That is a person who feels broken. That is a person who feels his mother and community and everyone has let him down. That is a person who has accepted that they are nothing and that it doesn't matter what they do."
These are the people the 100 men must reach, Murphy said.
"Fortunately, we have Jesus to heal a broken heart and fill a person," Murphy added. "Now we all need to move out of our four walls and go find these people."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.