Church group sends message of peace

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2003

AHOSKIE – Their message was one of peace.

Members of the Soul Saving Station, an Ahoskie-based church, gathered in front of the Ahoskie Town Hall on Sunday afternoon, bearing signs containing religious messages and chanting old-time spirituals in an effort to draw attention to a rash of murders involving four young black males over the past 15 months.

Still fresh upon the minds of those taking part in this crusade was the latest victim, 19-year-old Bobby Lee Harrell Jr. of Ahoskie who was gunned down in broad daylight on Tuesday of last week near the corner of the &uot;infamous&uot; First and Maple streets in Ahoskie. Following a wild car chase, five individuals, all from outside the Roanoke-Chowan area, are jailed in connection with that murder.

&uot;We love the youth and our hearts are saddened and heavy by the killings taking place in our city,&uot; said Bishop Val Melendez of the Soul Saving Station.

Those &uot;heavy hearts&uot; turned out by several dozen on Sunday where their peaceful protest was greeted by puzzled looks from Main Street motorists. A few passersby honked their horns in support, but none joined the church members in this peaceful rally. That fact prompted Melendez to call for a town wide show of unity in this battle against violence.

&uot;I believe this is the time for churches to come together in unity to intercede for our city,&uot; he stressed.

Plans are already being made for the next rally, scheduled for 5 p.m. on Oct. 19. Melendez stated that prayers would be offered up on that day, both on the steps of the Ahoskie Town Hall and at the corner of First and Maple streets.

&uot;Our mission is to take back our city by force through prayer,&uot; he admitted. &uot;Second Chronicles, 7:14, says, ‘if my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land’.&uot;

He concluded by saying, &uot;We are asking all area churches to come out and join us. This is a spiritual warfare and the churches have the answer.&uot;

That spiritual warfare is also aimed at the brutal murders of three other young Ahoskie men.

Harrell’s tragic demise was preceded by the murder of Tyrelle De’Shun Overton in July of 2002. Two men were arrested earlier this year in the death of the 20-year-old Ahoskie native.

Five months after Overton’s murder, the body of 24-year-old Donnie Bunch of Ahoskie was found in a field near Cofield. He had been shot in the head three times. Another Ahoskie man was charged in his death.

In June of this year, Ahoskie native Ervin Demetrius Taylor, 25 of Raleigh, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the VIP Club near Ahoskie. Taylor was back home in order to attend graduation exercises at his alma mater, Hertford County High School. His alleged murderer, a 19-year-old Ahoskie youth, committed suicide as law enforcement officers closed in for an arrest.