Members of Friendship Baptist Church of Chicago were in the middle of a hymn when they heard gunshots and the three frantic sons of 34-year-old usher Emmanuel Fleming burst through the church's large wooden doors. Their father, however, did not make it. Gunmen shot him and a visitor dead on the steps of the church on Sunday morning.
Eyewitnesses said one of the boys repeatedly screamed "I want my dad!" even as church members and other cowered for their lives.
"They were on their way up the steps to the church, and two gentlemen ran up from Jackson (Boulevard) and basically unloaded on them," the Rev. Reginald Bachus, the church's pastor, told the Chicago Tribune.
"It's just hard for me to believe that something like this could happen on a Sunday morning," he said. "Two young men on their way to church. ... I think that's the hardest part for me to grasp."
Police identified the murdered visitor as Michael Swift, 46. The shooting took place at approximately 11:15 a.m.
"The victims were going to church; two individuals came up and fired their weapons, striking the individuals," Deputy Chief Al Nagode of the Chicago Police Department told the Tribune.
The gunmen then sped off in a silver or gray SUV, Nagode said.
"We are extremely close with our faith-based organizations over there," he added. "It certainly is a troubled area, and we dedicate a tremendous amount of resources to it ... in an attempt to help the community out in any way we can."
All of Flemings' three boys are under age 10. They were baptized at the church where their father was killed. The last thing he told them was to run inside and take shelter from the bullets.
Bruno Carter, a church member from Humboldt Park, who witnessed the ordeal from just outside the church, told the Tribune that the suspected perpetrators had bandanas across their faces.
"The kids were partially in the door, and they heard the gunfire and their father was telling them to get in," Carter said.
Both Fleming and Swift tried to take cover behind a retaining wall but it wasn't enough to protect them.
"It seems like the more people march and carry signs — and the more churches bind together to say 'Stop the violence' — the more they disregard it and just continue to kill," Carter said.
The Christian Post reached out to Friendship Baptist Church on Monday for further comment but there was no answer. The church has been in existence for more than 100 years, according to its website.
Reacting to the shooting on Monday, city, state and faith leaders came together to condemn the shooting.
"When this cycle of violence reaches the doorsteps of a church, we are really in trouble," Chicago Police Commander Dwayne Betts said.
Bachus stated, "There should be a sanctuary from violence, and I believe that the church should be one of those sanctuaries, and yesterday we had the unfortunate incident happen here, two young men on their way to worship, one with three young sons between 6 and 10 years old, who had to witness their father being gunned down and it's time for us to make a change in our city."
A march for peace is slated for 5 p.m. Monday.