Vigil to ‘harness love, connection’ after shooting spree

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Members of religious faiths representing all of Kalamazoo gathered Monday night for a standing-room only service at First Congregational Church, offering prayer for the six victims killed in the weekend shooting spree and their families.

The community wants to heal finding comfort in each other.

“We just wanted to stand and not feel held hostage. We wanted to stand with our town,” vigil attendee Nathan McLaughlin said.

The service started at with an interfaith prayer vigil at First Congregational Church, after which there was a candlelit procession to nearby Bronson Park. There, against the darkness, carefully maintaining fragile flickering flames, members of Kalamazoo and the surrounding area came together as an act of defiance against the evil that visited the city Saturday night.

“We are shocked. I’m shocked. We are stunned. Many of us don’t know what to say or think or do. So I think this is one good way of sharing what we can do as a community,” attendee Mike Smith said.

“We were just talking about how special Kalamazoo is and how we can actually make a change and harness this community love and sense of connection,” Joan Hawxhurst added.

Area religious and political leaders along with law enforcement tried to offer comfort at the service, taking the first steps toward healing.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell told the crowd of about 850 that the events of Saturday night need to serve as a wakeup call.

“I’m not going to preach about guns and all that,” he said. “I’m not going to. It’s about these individuals tonight. But man, oh man, we’ve got to find some sense — we have to.”

Watch the full interfaith prayer service below. App users can click here to watch.>>#KalamazooStrong: How you can help

The Kalamazoo City Commission previously scheduled for Monday was canceled so commissioners could attend the vigil. The meeting has not yet been rescheduled.

Eight people were shot during the Saturday spree. 53-year-old Rich Smith, 17-year-old Tyler Smith, 60-year-old Mary Jo Nye, 62-year-old Mary Lou Nye of Baroda, 68-year-old Barbara Hawthorne and 74-year-old Dorothy Brown were killed.

Tiana Carruthers was the first person shot. Monday, she was recovering. Abigail Kopf, 14, was also shot in the spree. She is still in critical condition at an area hospital, fighting for her life.

Monday, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell released the following statement about the shootings:

“Our community grieves for the victims and families of Saturday’s tragic and heart breaking events. At this time we don’t know what prompted the shooter to act in this evil, ugly way. To the best of our knowledge they were senseless and random acts of violence which could have occurred anywhere.What we do know is that Kalamazoo is, and will continue to be, a great and caring community. As a community, our first priority must be supporting the victims and their families. We must come together in their support- including the shooter’s family, who were also innocent victims in this tragedy.I would like to extend my gratitude to Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Medical Services paramedics and all of the law enforcement professionals involved in apprehending this suspect. Their outstanding work led to the apprehension of this individual before any more lives could be lost, and their efforts will continue until justice can be served for the victims of these heinous crimes.I grieve along with the rest of our community, region, and nation, for the victims’ families and our community. Kalamazoo has become one of the far too many communities in our country where this type of violence has claimed innocent lives. We have always stepped up when challenged, and we will stand together in this sad time. We cannot be fearful, but must instead unite and show the love and compassion that defines us as a community.”

>>RELATED: Kalamazoo shooting victims remembered

Earlier Monday, community members filled St. Augustine Cathedral for a Mass to pray for the shooting victims.

After the service, Bishop Paul Bradley told 24 Hour News 8 no matter what faith you may practice, we all need to come together as brothers and sisters to end violence.

“I think we call on what’s the common denominator in the hearts of all of us, and that is that we can live together in peace and security.  That we can live together as sisters and brothers in the human family.  The greatest love is our unity.  We call on each other as people of good will to keep doing all that we can so that our communities can be protected so we can end violence of any sort,”  Bradley said.

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