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Published: Sunday, 10/25/2009

Clergy urge bar shooters to surrender

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With the now-closed Route 66 Kitchen serving as a backdrop, religious leaders gathered yesterday to urge those responsible for last week's shootout to surrender to police and for those witnesses who aren't cooperating to come forward.

They also pushed for policy makers to consider more "sensible" gun laws, including stricter restrictions and registration requirements.

The small group of clergy said they were saddened by the city's tarnished image after graphic video of the Oct. 8 shooting hit the national airwaves.

Cedric Brock, pastor of Mount Nebo Church on North Detroit Avenue and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, said the incident was "not the norm for Toledo," but instead a "sad situation" that "can be rectified."

"Unfortunately, we're stuck with this … mark on Toledo," he said. "But if we can come together, we'll do what we can to make a difference."

Five men are believed to have been carrying guns inside the small, dark bar on Westwood Avenue when an altercation led to a midnight shootout. No one was injured during the shooting, which police believed involved at least 20 shots.

In an attempt to identify the suspects, police released the video and asked witnesses to come forward. A lack of cooperation by those in the bar has hindered the investigation, police said.

As of yesterday, police continued to investigate the incident in an attempt to identify suspects.

Vincent Jenkins, the DJ working the night of the shootout, said he talked to police that night but has not been contacted by them since. "I told them once the shooting started, I ran out the door," he said.

Earlier this week, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner publicly announced intentions to shut down the bar so as to send a message that bar owners must be more diligent in ensuring that guns aren't brought into their establishments. Yesterday, Pastor Brock said he is not making a similar demand, only that the message be sent that behavior such as what was caught on video was "unacceptable."

"They do need to turn themselves in. The people who were witnesses do need to come forward," he said, adding it would be "best for the community."

The Rev. D.L. Perryman, pastor of Center of Hope Community Baptist Church on Dorr Street, said it was easier to find a gun in the central city than it was to find fruits or vegetables. He said gun violence is an issue that requires more serious attention.

When asked whether he believed stricter gun laws would have prevented the shooting, the pastor answered that a solution is possible.

"Sensible laws, registration that you're tracking these guns, and a dialogue on a national level where we can solve the problem, talk about the solutions, bring together the best minds from across the country," he answered. "If we can do that and we can sit down and talk about it, we can reach some viable solutions, I think.

"We want to invest in the future of our people and not funerals," he added.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-212134.



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