BRADENTON — After two teens were killed by guns exactly a month apart, a local non-profit organization is holding a march and a vigil in hopes of helping the community heal.
“We are trying to bring peace and love to the community to all of those impacted by the violence,” said Rogers Project Hope, Inc. President Robert Dunlap. “By lighting of those candles, we hope to bring community awareness and let people know we are tired of the killing.”
On Aug. 4, 18-year-old DeJuan Williams, a recent Bayshore High graduate was gunned down in his back yard by 16-year-old Byron Galloway, a Southeast High student, according to authorities.
On Sept. 4, 17-year-old Jasmine Thompson, a Bayshore High cheerleader, was shot in the head while sitting in a car outside Southeast High while picking up a friend when 18-year-old Daniel Williams recklessly fired at the vehicle, according to an arrest warrant.
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A total of six teens — one-fourth of the victims to date— were killed in homicides in Manatee County. So far, there have been a total of 24 homicide cases.
Since then community members have questioned how what can be done to prevent more blood from being shed.
A march begins 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ, 611 13th Ave. E., Bradenton and ends at St. Paul’s Missionary’s Baptist Church, 525 Ninth Ave. E., Bradenton where a candlelight vigil will follow.
Dunlap hopes to hear from Williams’ and Thompson’s family members as well as faith based leaders. He also hopes the event will reach out to the suspect’ families.
“The community is tired of it. There’s a lot of pain. We feel we need to do something to bring awareness and let people know the violence needs to stop,” he said. “We also want to bring love to the suspects’ families because they have lost too.”
St. Paul’s Missionary’s Baptist Church Rev. James Roberts, who offered words of comfort at Thompson’s funeral, will be speaking at the event.
“In spite of what has happened, it’s bringing people closer together,” he said. “From what I saw, I think every parent’s heart has been touched in some way.”
Barbara Harvey, a school board member, who is helping plan a community forum Saturday to come up with solutions, will also be speaking at the vigil.
She said she believes parents, faith, neighborhoods and school all take part in shaping a child.
“It’s going to take all of these components working together,” she said.
Beth Burger, Herald criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.