Local pastors, officers gather to pray for community after shooting

Published 12:10 am Saturday, November 5, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — The mood was calm Friday morning as pastors and police officers walked the Park Avenue neighborhood where a man was killed in an officer-involved shooting the day before.

The small group’s goal was to knock on every single door in the neighborhood, pray and counsel with anyone who answered and was willing.

The ministers and other community leaders had met with city officials, including Police Chief Jerry Stokes, late Thursday night.

One of the outcomes from that meeting was the pastors and police walking the neighborhood.

The Salisbury Police Special Response Team went to 625 E. Lafayette St. to serve a “no-knock” warrant on a mobile home where they believed they would find weapons and drugs. Police say the officers forced open a back door, entered, announced their presence and were fired upon by the tenant, Ferguson Claude Laurent Jr.

Officer Karl Boehm returned fire, striking the 22-year-old. Laurent later died at the hospital.

The community isn’t unfamiliar to the Rev. Patrick Jones, pastor of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. He is a member of Night Crawlers, a group of ministers and community leaders who walk through Salisbury neighborhoods to pray and counsel with residents.

“We’ve canvassed this neighborhood before; several times. Young people are hurt but they’re willing to talk, and I think this is something that should continue even with the law enforcement making their rounds or however they patrol,” Jones said.

He said he would encourage police to not make this a one-time stop, but rather visit with the people in the neighborhood often.

“Let them know they are here for the community and just to engage,” he said.

Jones said the ministers were there not only to offer support to police, but also to hold them accountable.

He said some youth mentioned it could appear that police were only in the neighborhood to continue their investigation. Jones said it all came down to being visible, and not just the day after a shooting.

Pastor Tim Bates, who started the Night Crawlers and serves Cameron Presbyterian and Calvary Presbyterian churches in Statesville, said this is similar to what they’ve already done with Night Crawlers.

“I want justice and truth,” Bates said.

Lyn Adrian, who lives a few houses down from where the shooting took place, said she applauds the idea of police and ministers coming together.

Despite all the adversities they face, police still have a job to do, she said, and she’s very much in support of them.

Pastor Billy Rollins of the Refuge said he hoped fear would be replaced with peace.

He had a heart and a passion for what he and the other ministers were trying to do. Rollins said he’s been working on a similar community effort with his church. This Sunday, members from his congregation have planned to walk the neighborhood around the church to meet the community.

Minister Latasha Wilks, who is head of Let’s Lend A Helping Hand Inc., has created a Go Fund Me page for Laurent’s funeral expenses. Laurent, who was from the Virgin Islands, had lived in Salisbury for about two or three years. Both of his parents are deceased.

Wilks said he was like a son to her and he was always respectful of her.

She said she often brought food to Laurent and others in the community as her way of showing them she cared.

She’d just seen him the day before he died.

Lt. Greg Beam, one of the officers who walked throughout the neighborhood, said officers want people to know they feel the community’s hurt and pain.

He said this type of community presence is part of Police Chief Jerry Stokes’ new community policing strategy. The goal is to get officers out of their cars and into the community to meet and talk with residents.

This campaign is a citywide effort to build relationships with the community.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.