Latest Champaign Shooting Brings Out 100 For Prayer Walk
By Jim Meadows
About 100 people walked through the streets of Champaign’s Garden Hills neighborhood Wednesday evening --- in response to the latest in a string of shootings.
Some of the marchers broke into a hymn as they walked from Jericho Missionary Baptist Church to Hedge Road, the site of a fatal shooting on Tuesday. The Champaign County Coroner identifies the victim as 26-year-old Allen Redding of Champaign.
The marchers circled around in a cul-de-sac, where Jericho Church pastor Lekevie Johnson led them in prayer, asking God to bring peace to the community.
"And God, we ask for Your hand to intervene, and retake authority over the gun violence, the shooting, the anger and the frustration", said Johnson, after asking all those gathered to join him in prayer. "And we pray for a peaceful summer in this community and every community that’s represented here tonight."
The mostly African-American group also included many local officials, including Champaign Mayor Don Gerard, Police Chief Anthony Cobb, County Board Member and Illinois House candidate Carol Ammons and City Council members Karen Foster, William Kyles and Deb Frank Feinen.
Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery, who helped organize the prayer walk, said she hoped it marked the start of renewed attention to the poverty and lack of opportunity in Garden Hills and other neighborhoods.
Chief Cobb said the investigation into the shootings is ongoing. The list of incidents since May 22nd now includes seven shootings or reports of shootings, seven reports of shots heard, and three reported sightings of armed subjects.
Cobb says he can’t say, based on current evidence, that the various shootings are related. And while those involved may fit the legal definition of a gang, Cobb says they don’t have the fixed, organized structures of the gangs that were found in Champaign during the 1990’s.
"We do have some neighborhood sets that may flare up from time to time", said Cobb. "But in this particular case, it’s not even a neighborhood set. There may be some family issues going back and forth. There may be some friendships that once were very closely related that are now strained, and may lead to some ---- but it’s constantly changing what the dynamic is that’s causing it."
Cobb says many of the shootings do appear to be linked to drugs, either to drug trafficking or drug use. He praised the prayer walk, sayiing that anything that motivates the community to come together to solve problems is a great thing. Cobb added that the police want to partner with the commununity to "point out the bad guys" and help neighborhoods avoid future violence.