Faith and city leaders in Kinston plead for peace after three shootings in one week

Faith and city leaders in Kinston plead for peace after three shootings in one week
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 9:47 PM EDT
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KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - Residents of Kinston are shaken by three separate shootings in the first week of July. It sparked the city’s mayor and police chief to turn to faith to put an end to the violence.

“The Bible says, ‘When two or three are gathered, I will be in your midst,’” recited pastor Merwyn Smith. He stood on the steps of city hall calling for prayer and action.

Joined by the mayor and the chief of police, faith leaders asked the community to help them put an end to senseless gun violence.

“And a lot of times they think, ‘Okay, now I can get away with more.’ So, it’s important for citizens to speak up, take back their community,” said Police Chief Jenee Spencer. “Say, ‘We’re not going to allow this, and if I see you doing something wrong, I’m going to tell on it because I want you out of my community. If you are not a good citizen, then you don’t have to be here.’”

The police department is ramping up its Police Community Action Team once again. The force was disbanded to bulk up patrol staff, but the need is back.

The faith leaders say there are more tools a person can use to cope.

“You know, in these stressful times, we’ve got to learn how to depend on things like prayer and meditation that will bring us to a place of peace, an inward peace,” said Jumping Run Church pastor Anthony Lawson.

Those who gathered say that peace needs to be balanced with proactivity.

“We don’t ever want it to be the norm. We don’t ever want to be numb to gun violence,” said Mayor Don Hardy. “We must take action, affirmative action, by coming together.”

For those with their hands on the trigger, Hardy has a message.

“Think about every action, everything that you do. And think about the consequences of your actions because it’s a no-win situation,” warned Hardy. “Because the family loses their loved one from their home, and the other loved one is in the ground, dead.”

Though not all of the shootings in Kinston earlier this month were found to be gang-related, they are considered targeted violence. All three investigations are ongoing.

Leaders now hope their plea will bring the city back to what it once was.

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