Less than a week after a shooting that killed three men and wounded a young boy, neighbors gathered peacefully Sunday night to walk their streets and pray together for an end to the violence.
A large crowd gathered at 8 p.m. at Grace Church of the Nazarene on IAA Drive in Bloomington. They lit candles and walked the few blocks to pray in front of 311 Riley Drive, where the shooting happened.
“What unites us right now is a broken heart,” said the Rev. Mike Stipp, pastor at Grace Church of the Nazarene, who organized the walk. “May the violence end. May the violence end.”
Riley Drive was the third fatal shooting in Bloomington-Normal in two months. Another took place June 10 just across Veterans Parkway, at 1221 Orchard St. Seven people have been killed since April 25.
Stipp said the Fairway Knolls neighborhood is concerned. There has been no arrests in the Riley Drive shooting, which killed Corey Jackson, 22, Nathaniel Pena, 22, and Juan Perez-Macedo, 33, all of Bloomington.
“Many people have told us they are ready to leave. They say, ‘As soon as the lease is up, we’re outta here,” Stipp said. “That impact is worrisome. People are concerned that if this 4-year-old boy got shot, could it happen to another innocent child? And we just don’t want that.”
Since the shootings, many have offered their own prescription for how to stop future violence. Stipp said he wants to see a stronger “family network system” and more response from places of worship.
“I think if we can encourage people with their anger or their hate or their addiction to become people of faith, that’s a place to begin. Rather than just react or respond in a negative way with violence,” he said.
Both the Riley Drive and Orchard Street shootings took place in Alderman Joni Painter’s Ward 5. Painter spoke at the start of Sunday’s prayer walk.
“They’re very nice neighborhoods. This is rather an anomaly," she said.
What can be done to stop the violence?
“I think about community. In going forward in city planning, I really am opposed to jamming a bunch of people together into high-rise apartment buildings, especially geared toward low-income people. They don’t get a chance to see one another and meet one another and greet one another,” Painter said. “There’s no opportunity to be neighborly.”
Painter said she was encouraged by the big turnout at Sunday’s prayer walk.
“This has been very heavy on my heart,” she said. “(This) gives me hope.”
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