PALMETTO -- During a prayer service Saturday, speakers called on God, the church, and their neighbors to halt violence as they remembered victims of a mass shooting here two weeks ago.
The healing service at Greater St. Luke Primitive Baptist Church attracted about 50 who prayed, spoke and sang in the wake of the attack at the now-defunct Club Elite that killed two and injured 22 more.
Pastor Jeffrey Earl Mills called for a halt to what he termed “senseless violence.”
“What we hope to come out of this is not the emergence of a new organization, not somebody who wants to announce a candidacy or something, but what we hope will come out of this is a serious conversation about what has gone wrong,” he said.
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He wondered how a deep sense of alienation and hopelessness could result in acts of violence without any sign of remorse or mercy.
“We need a healing from the sinful things that are happening all around us,” said Palmetto City Commissioner Mary Lancaster, who also urged adults to be living role models for youngsters who might otherwise stray into crime.
She and others suggested better parenting, more emphasis on peaceful ways to solve disputes, and a willingness to help police with tips that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.
After street preacher Jerome Heaven said, “I certainly want to thank God for law enforcement,” the crowd erupted in applause and cheers for police officers and sheriff’s deputies, who were sitting in the front row.
Among them was Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells, who told the group that a crime of such magnitude cannot be solved in one hour, but said he’s listening to those who might know the names of the shooters.
“Yeah, people are scared, I’d be scared, too, but we still have an obligation and responsibility to try and solve the problems,” Wells said. “I mean, when we solve this -- and we will -- that is only the beginning of trying to get to the root of what’s really going on.”
“We’ve got to go deep here,” he added.
The service ended with a soulful chorus of “God Bless America.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.