Prayer service honors victims of gun violence

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
Kalamazoo shooting rampage victims 022216_192816

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The day before the one-year anniversary of the Kalamazoo-area shooting spree that left six people dead, community members gathered for a prayer service to remember all victims of gun violence.

The service at Second Baptist Church in Kalamazoo began with prayer and messages of healing for victims’ families. The pastor spoke about having the will to do the right thing, not forgetting the victims, and also forgiving the perpetrators. Emotional family members then stood on the dais to repeat the names of loved ones killed.

The families of the people killed in the Feb. 20, 2016 shooting spree say that as the one-year anniversary approaches, their struggle hasn’t gotten any easier.

“You’re not over it, so it’s not like … all of a sudden on the 21st, we’re going to be better,” said Nate Hawthorne, whose aunt Barbara Hawthorne was among the six killed in the shooting spree that police say was carried out by a lone gunman.

Laurie Smith, the widow and mother of rampage victims Richard and Tyler Smith, talked about how supportive the community has been and the reality that gun violence is larger than one incident.

“Sitting here today made me realize that this happens all too often,” she said. “It’s not just about what happened a year ago for us — that every day, like they said, children are lost.”

Iqullia Hegler is the grandmother of 17-year-old Temetrion Hegler, who was killed by her ex-husband last year.

“That man was standing behind me when he took my child’s life, so how could I protect him because we didn’t see it coming,” Hegler said.

She wants stricter gun laws, which was the point of conversation following the service. Attendees received a pamphlet containing a letter to sign and send to lawmakers urging stricter gun laws.

Attendees also received a pamphlet encouraging them to sign a letter to lawmakers to improve gun laws.

Another vigil is scheduled for Monday evening at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo to honor the lives lost and people affected by the shooting rampage.

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