Tense moments as Night Crawlers, others gather for peaceful prayer march
By Shavonne Walker
SALISBURY — There were a few tense moments, but a prayer march intended for the neighborhood where just two days ago Ferguson Laurent Jr. died in an officer involved shooting turned into a listening session.
Pastor Timothy Bates, creator of Night Crawlers, said he and other ministers and citizens were there to pray, but, more than that, they wanted to hear from the community.
Each Friday night, local ministers, leaders and citizens already walk different neighborhoods within the city to pray and counsel with those who live there.
Friday was no different, except that many in the community were also mourning the loss of the 22-year-old Virgin Islands native. Laurent was shot, police say, after he fired upon members of the Special Response Team, who were at his 625 E. Lafayette St. mobile home to serve a “no-knock” search warrant.
A day ago, police and city officials released details of why they were at the home on Thursday. The warrant, which does not require officers to knock and immediately announce, was the culmination of a three-month long investigation into the presence of drugs, weapons and stolen property.
Police Chief Jerry Stokes said officers were at the home Thursday morning to search the home after receiving information from a confidential informant. The informant also bought marijuana from the home.
The officers forced open a rear door and threw in a flash-bang grenade, spreading smoke into a hallway and announced “police” before rushing inside. Police say Laurent fired at one of the first officers, Karl Boehm, who returned fire.
Laurent later died at the hospital.
A group of about 80 met Friday night at the Salvation Army of Rowan County on Bringle Ferry Road, just blocks from the home of Laurent.
Bates said there was some resistance, from people he believed were friends and family of Ferguson Laurent.
He said some family members said they felt as if city leaders were there as a “publicity stunt.”
Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes, City Manager Lane Bailey and Assistant City Manager Zack Kyles were also on hand at the march.
There were also some who were new to participating in Night Crawlers, and Bates said he understood how the family would feel overwhelmed with so many unfamiliar faces.
“We let them lament. We let him tell us how he felt,” Bates said of one young man.
One young woman challenged the leaders to create something for the youth to do. Another person said she was just hurt because she had an uncle who was shot by police.
“It was necessary for us to see that and feel that,” Bates said, “for the community to see this is their struggle.”
The best comment Bates said he heard was from a young man who said there was a lot of frustration, but a lot frustration with love.
“We are frustrated out of a sense of love because we want to do something and didn’t know how to,” Bates said.
He said as a minister all he knows how to do is pray and reach out to others in a time like this.
Despite the chants and those who lashed out at law enforcement, Bates said, there was no violence and that is the best outcome.
“It was very peaceful and uplifting,” he said.
The biggest thing is to be consistent and not just show up when things happen, Bates said.
“We have to challenge our police force on these answers that people are seeking. Folks want to know, ‘was that the right tactic and procedure to use?’ ” he said.
Afterward, ministers prayed with friends and family of Ferguson Laurent.
Minister Latasha Wilks spoke about her efforts in the community as well as Alvena “Al” Heggins, founder of Human Praxis Institute. Human Praxis Institute is a Salisbury-based human relations firm that specializes in strategic planning, racial and equity training and mediation services.
Mayor Alexander reminded those gathered following the prayer march about the city’s upcoming Community Conversations to be held from 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Nov. 14 at Noble and Kelsey Funeral Home, 223 E. Fisher St.
As to what’s next, Bates said, “we have to build some trust and not try to figure it out for them. We go back and we keep asking questions and showing love.”
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.