By Cheryl Brown
The senseless shooting death last Thursday of Tory Holt, 15, of Riversides Eastside community has rocked both San Bernardino and Riverside communities and has paralyzed a group of youth at Temple Missionary Baptist Church, who witnessed the shooting which occurred in front of the church.
Holt was on his way to choir rehearsal.
Holt was shot multiple times on the handicapped ramp leading to the entrance of the church. He was placed on life support but died the next morning. His mother donated many of his organs upon his death. He lived in Riversides Eastside and attended church in San Bernardino. His mother drove up during the aftermath of the shooting but kept away from the grizzly site. The Eastside of Riverside has been the scene of several gang shootings in the past year.
According to Sergeant D. Harp of the San Bernardino Police Department, the alleged shooter, 24-year-old Billy Edward Johnson, was arrested shortly after the shooting and is awaiting arraignment at the West Valley Detention Center. He told Black Voice News, "the alleged suspect is a member of the P.J. Crips."
According to Rev. Jeffrey Wiggins, Assistant to Pastor Ray Turner, "a vehicle was circling the church as the youth were entering for their weekly choir rehearsal. Holt was called out after Johnson allegedly got out of the vehicle that was then driven around the corner. Johnson, allegedly driving in a car on the Ramona side of the church, called Holt to come near the sidewalk and because he had on his trademark red baseball cap and a red shirt Johnson allegedly asked him what "set" he belonged to. Holt told him he didnt gang bang and walked away. Johnson pulled a gun and began shooting at Holt. He was on the ramp leading to the door of the church; there was nowhere for him to go.
Following the shooting Johnson allegedly was picked up by the driver and left the scene. Many people identified him and the Chief of Police, Garrett Zimmon arrived on the scene spending most of the night and making it a top priority to bring in the alleged shooter. There is speculation that he was in the neighborhood near the group home where his sister works.
"We are still working on the case. We are looking for more witnesses to come forth," said Harp.
Pastor Turner said he was so upset about the incident that he vows to do something to stop the scourge of gangs plaguing the community. " How could I lead at a time like this when I had just talked with Tory in my office. He just came to say hi as he always does and to give me a big hug," said Turner. He continued, "I talked to the Lord and he placed Solomon on my mind. I asked him for wisdom at a time like this. After prayer I called in a member who is a counselor and began crises counseling with our youth and adults," said Turner.
Turner wants to call gangs terrorist groups and use new federal legislation to rid the community of them. "We should do three things: work towards keeping youth from getting into gangs, help those who are in gangs to get out, and let those who want to stay in go to jail or die off," he told a group of 35 community and religious leaders.
A serious discussion from a variety of people ensued when Rev. Turner suggested the gang members be treated as terrorists. Pastor Owusu Hodari of Predestined In Christ Church, and former Black Panther Party members passionately told of his experience being targeted as a terrorist. He said that we couldnt give the police the license to kill our kids. Turner said he wasnt ready to give the police carte blanche in our communities.
"We need to address the entire community. It would be counter productive to take the guns away from the local groups of gangs and not disarm those in neighboring communities," said Turner. Although each person speaking had partial solutions, Rev. Turner indicated there must be a holistic approach.
A passionate Richard Woods, a prevention specialist said, "Our kids are wearing masks and it starts in the home. We lost two people on that day, one to death and one to the system. I work everyday in the community that you are talking about and you can go into the homes and mothers are drinking alcohol and not paying attention to their children. Alcohol is the gateway drug to all of our problems and it starts in the home. The sickness is in our families," said Woods of Hase and Associates.
Carolyn Tillman, representative of the San Bernardino County Superintendent Schools, offered the Countys Drug Task Force as a possible solution because all of the people who can make things happen are sitting there and looking for a project to focus on that will help the community.
Rev. Jerry Musgrove, offered the Victory Outreach model while Rev. Felix Roger Jones III of First All People Church, Redlands, said Cops and Clergy is an excellent program. Still others made various suggestions. "We dont want all of these good ideas to get lost in discussion," said Turner.
After all the suggestions, the group decided to hold a planning meeting to focus on pieces of the puzzle. Home, church and community; as well as intermediate and long-term suggestions for solutions to this problem. Before meeting however the ministers will hold a candlelight prayer vigil (bring your own candle) in the project housing area, praying and meeting with anyone who has spiritual needs, Friday, December 13, 2002 gathering at Temple Baptist at 6:30 p.m., out on the streets at 7:00 p.m.
Tory Holts funeral will be held on Friday at Temple Baptist Church, 1583 W. Union Street, San Bernardino.
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