Churches ramp up out­reach in wake of shoot­ings

Two mur­der tri­als are await­ing court dates and po­lice are still work­ing on a killing last month in North Rome.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Diane Wag­ner DWag­

A man shot mul­ti­ple times dur­ing last month’s fa­tal gun­fight on Cal­houn Av­enue has been re­leased from the hos­pi­tal, but po­lice are no closer to de­ter­min­ing who killed Ta­main De­shaun McKnight.

“Peo­ple are say­ing they weren’t there or giv­ing dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the story,” Rome Po­lice Capt. Roy Willing­ham said Mon­day. “They’re un­will­ing to help.”

Willing­ham said Ladory Robin­son, 29, is re­cov­er­ing from his gun­shot wounds at home. Two other men, Evanda Spivey, 38, and Sammy Riles, 33, sus­tained leg wounds but were treated and re­leased the same day.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are still work­ing on the case that left the 35-year-old McKnight dead in a North Rome park­ing lot lit­tered with shell cas­ings and two semi-au­to­matic pis­tols near his body. The in­ci­dent hap­pened around 4:20 a.m. Sept. 23 at 510 Cal­houn Ave.

Mean­while, sev­eral church groups are launch­ing out­reach ini­tia­tives in re­sponse to what lead­ers see as a grow­ing plague of vi­o­lence in the com­mu­nity.

“Gang vi­o­lence, drug vi­o­lence, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, all of it ties in,” said the Rev. Ter­rell Shields of Greater Mount Cal­vary Bap­tist Church in South Rome. “The end re­sult is some­body’s fam­ily vis­its them in the ceme­tery and some­body’s fam­ily vis­its them in jail.”

Shields and a group of church mem­bers met Sun­day night to delve into the is­sue and what they might do to com­bat it. He said par­ents, schools and churches — “the com­mu­nity as a whole” — must bol­ster their in­volve­ment in the lives of peo­ple who need help.

A ma­jor fo­cus, he added, must be to teach ways of re­solv­ing prob­lems with­out vi­o­lence.

“It’s not so much gun con­trol. Guns don’t kill, peo­ple kill,” Shields said Mon­day. “They have to learn to stop and think be­fore they move to their gun. Their kids — more than one per­son is af­fected by their de­ci­sion.”

A mur­der trial just wrapped up, with a not-guilty ver­dict, in the drug-re­lated shoot­ing of a Berry Col­lege stu­dent in Ar­muchee last fall. Sus­pects in two fa­tal shoot­ings this sum­mer are await­ing trial dates. One is ac­cused of killing his girl­friend in South Rome, an­other is charged with mur­der­ing a man in his home near the site of the lat­est slay­ing.

“Things we used to see on TV that hap­pened in D.C., Nash­ville, At­lanta, New York ... they’re mak­ing their way down to ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties like Rome,” Shields said. “We need to stop it be­fore it be­comes an epi­demic.”

Mem­bers of The Project Global, a church on Cal­houn Av­enue, also are mo­bi­liz­ing.

Lyle Mor­ris said Mon­day they re­solved dur­ing a brain­storm­ing ses­sion to go out into their com­mu­nity, meet their neigh­bors and show love. He was at the nearby Hop-N-Shop last week, pass­ing out ham­burg­ers and talk­ing to peo­ple.

“One man, he starts cry­ing. He said, ‘Man, it’s so bad out here,’ and called it a devil’s world,” Mor­ris said. “In many com­mu­ni­ties there’s no pos­i­tive im­pact. We want to be a pos­i­tive im­pact.”

The church is plan­ning a com­mu­nity event this month in the park­ing lot of the strip mall where they meet, he said, but the main push is to make con­nec­tions and be­come a con­stant pres­ence.

“The goal is to share the love of God, be­cause it’s not there in many com­mu­ni­ties. It’s in the church build­ing, but a lot of peo­ple aren’t go­ing to go to a church. So our goal is to go out and meet them,” Mor­ris said.

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