Featured Story-STOP gathers

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 27, 2012

Among those on hand at last Saturday’s organizational meeting of STOP (Stop The Ongoing Problem) were Rev. Walter Newson, (right) whose Mt. Gillion Church facilitated the meeting. Other early arrivers at Saturday meeting included, (from left) Bro. George Fondren, Missionary Darcus Campbell, Rev. Willie Butler, Robert Rawson (seated in rear) Chaplain James Russell, Rev. Roger Howell and STOP Chaplain Michael Howell. The Panolian photo by Rupert Howell

STOP group addresses gang violence

By Rupert Howell

A group of two dozen, many of them ministers, other community leaders and some just concerned citizens, met Saturday at Mt. Gillion Church forming a group, Stop The Ongoing Problem (STOP), to deal with the problem of violence that has plagued Panola County in recent days.

A volunteer selected to be the group’s advisor/coordinator said Monday, “Peace is about to happen.”

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A born-again Christian and former gang member, who asked not to be identified, told the group Saturday, “I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it all.”

He was confident on Monday that the sides were near a truce.

Violence following the shooting death of Jeremy Wright has included drive-by shootings into dwellings and automobiles with at least two being injured the night before the meeting in Sardis. Officials believe they are retaliatory incidents among rival gangs.

Among those meeting Monday was Deputy Sheriff Albert Perkins representing the Panola County Sheriff’s Department who said that the group should try and reach kids from, “… seven to 18. That’s the age group they (gangs) are preying on – juveniles.”

Former Panola County Sheriff Otis Griffin, who now serves as Coahoma County Jail’s warden, told the group, it is important to “know how to communicate with these kids… People do, can and will change,” Griffin said.

The group was facilitated by an existing group, Pastors and Ministers Fellowship, and the new group plans to meet regularly in different locations  throughout the county.

Although several pastors were in attendance, a cross section of citizens with varying backgrounds including law enforcement, former gang members, school bus drivers, a motorcycle club chaplain and concerned citizens, form the non-denominational, multi-racial group.

John C. Morris was chosen to chair the group.

Members of the group agreed to take the issue to their respective churches for prayer the following day with some agreeing to a 24-hour fast over the incidents.

T-shirts are being printed that state, “Stray bullets have no targets. We live here, too,” are being printed for distribution by the group.

The group will meet again Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the Patton Lane Community Center and others who are interested in stopping the ongoing problem of violence in our community are invited to attend.