Church holds 24-hour prayer service for teen shot

By Ashley Harding, General assignment reporter, aharding@wjxt.com
Published On: Jul 12 2014 06:08:05 PM EDT
Updated On: Jul 12 2014 07:36:15 PM EDT

VIDEO: St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church held a 24 hour prayer vigil to send a message of hope for a safer community. This vigil comes after a series of gun violence including a 14-year-old who was shot in the parking lot of the Johnnie Walker Community Center.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

After a 14-year-old boy was shot in a drive-by shooting, local pastors and residents are praying for an end to violence and hope for a better future.

A condition update has not been released for James Jerimiah Thomas. His last known condition was life-threatening.

Thomas was shot while taking a swim break at the Johnnie Walker Community Center on Jacksonville's north side.

Shortly after the news of the shooting, members of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church banded together for a 24-hour prayer service in hopes of bringing peace to the city.

The rain fell outside of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, possibly marking the first day without violence in the Sheriff's Operation Ceasefire zone this week.

Inside the church, people could hear the sound of praise and hope for a safer city, led by Pastor John Guns.

Many of the followers were at the service all night. Vanessa Butters was among those to come out to spread the message.

"We have to send a message to these kids that we can forgive just, no matter what happens and we can keep moving," said Butters. "We can teach them to be better."

RELATED: Teen shot at NW Jax community center

Rep. Reggie Fullwood released a statement Saturday.

"This is another sad day when our children are not safe in our parks and neighborhoods," said Fullwood. "It will be a collaborative effort, but we have to curb this violence in northwest Jacksonville immediately. We need law enforcement, community leaders and residents to ban together to put an end to senseless violence."

John Guns' wife, Sonjanique Guns, agrees.

"We need to have different communities that are joining with us and reaching out. Whether, you're becoming part of the neighborhood watch, whatever you can do to help," said Sonjanique Guns. "We're just asking that you just get involved. Keep your eyes and your ears out and see what's going on. See what you can do to assist."

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