GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Larry Woods stood up before the congregation at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church on Sunday and recalled the loss of his son, 13 years ago, to gunfire.
His son, Larry Woods Jr., was an innocent victim.
"At the time, he began to weep," the Rev. Clifton Rhodes said. "His heart no doubt recalling the pain of the tragic death of his first son and now, to stand before the congregation and another son is now gone."
Woods' stepson Lance Byers was gunned down last week in an apparent case of road rage. Police are saying he also was an innocent victim.
Woods, a former Kent County assistant prosecutor, and his wife, Benita, a retired Grand Rapids police clerk, are now without their only sons.
"This is definitely not a norm," Rhodes said. "It' s not a norm that this type of violence has invaded a household multiple times. This is not a norm."
Larry Woods Jr. was working as a bouncer at the 54th Street Lounge in Wyoming in January 1999 when he was shot and killed. Earlier that night, he had kicked the suspect and others out of the nightclub.
"It's happening too many times -- totally innocent, yet gone," Rhodes said. "It's too easy to say 'wrong place at the wrong time' because now you wonder, where is the right place?"
Terrence Williams, then a member of the Wealthy Street Boys gang, is now 38 and serving life in prison without parole for first-degree murder.
"It was a tragic event, again, but the presence of the spirit of God as we relied on then, we are relying on now," Rhodes said.
Byers, a 42-year-old who lived for his 2-year-old daughter Emma, was headed to his job at the Michigan Department of Human Services when he was gunned down on Feb. 21. Police say it appears he was the victim of road rage. They have identified two persons of interest but have made no arrests.
Pastor Rhodes conducted Larry Woods Jr.'s funeral and will do the same for Byers on Thursday.
He said he may draw on the Biblical story of Cain and Abel.
"We have too many Cains, those who are willing to kill, and we have too many Abels, those whose blood is yet running on the ground, and to me, this is a page from the same book," he said. "Too many Cains and too many Abels. Too many. Just too many."
On Tuesday, Byers' mother Benita told her pastor about that day's sunrise -- a single shaft of light aiming toward heaven.
"Early in the sunrise of the day, the spirit of the Lord gave her some peace within," Rhodes said she told him. "She's going to use that to help get her through this time."
A fund has been set up for Byers' daughter Emma. Anyone wishing to contribute can give money to the Lance Byers Memorial at Lake Michigan Credit Union locations.
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