Billy Graham chaplains minister to Raleigh community after mass shooting kills 5
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, to help minister to people affected by the mass shooting that took five lives last week.
The response team, which serves as the chaplain ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, sent chaplains trained in crisis response after a teenager shot two people in a middle-class Raleigh neighborhood last Thursday before murdering three more and wounding two others on a walking trail. A 15-year-old suspect was arrested soon after the shooting began.
The chaplains oversee a mobile ministry center at the Hedingham Community Pool to pray and speak with locals, according to a statement released by BGEA on Friday.
“What an incredibly terrifying situation. My heart is heavy to hear about this tragic mass shooting,” said Josh Holland, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
“[Our chaplains were deployed] to comfort people, listen and cry with them, pray with them, and share God’s love with those who have been impacted by this horrific tragedy.”
The victims were identified as Nicole Connors, 52; Mary Marshall, 34; married mother of three Susan Karnatz, 49; Raleigh police officer Gabriel Torress, 29; and Knightdale High School student James Thompson, 16.
Thirty-three-year-old Raleigh police senior officer Casey Clark and 59-year-old Marcille Gardner were injured in the shooting, with the latter being in critical condition.
Churches in the Raleigh area also gathered for services and vigils on Sunday to help people find hope amid the tragedy.
“I believe there’s comfort both ways,” Pastor Tim Rabon of Beacon Baptist Church told the Goldsboro-based outlet WNCN. “No. 1, there’s comfort vertically, from God himself, and then God puts us in community, and that’s really what church is.”
In the Hedingham neighborhood where the shooting started, residents erected a temporary memorial to the victims, which includes five crosses and a photo of each person killed by the shooter.
“To the Raleigh community, we are grateful for the immediate 911 calls and continuous updates and patience,” stated Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson last Friday.
“We also want to salute the valiant efforts of a broad coalition of public safety partners who assisted in our investigation yesterday.”
The 15-year-old suspect, whom authorities have kept unnamed, was arrested hours after the shooting and later rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The motive for the shooting remains unknown.
Prosecutors have indicated that they may attempt to try the suspect as an adult.
Jennifer Metallo, a BGEA chaplain coordinator, told WNCN that more than anything else, her team was on the ground at the neighborhood memorial to offer listening ears.
“If we can get it out of their heart and out of their mouth, then they can get it out of their mind, and then that can help them start healing,” Metallo said.
According to The News & Observer, First Alliance Church in Raleigh held a vigil outside its building on Sunday.
“We just want to care for our neighbors,” Pastor Dan Rothra said. “I don’t have a big agenda except to just let our neighbors be loved.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team often deploys to sites of tragedy, whether they are natural disasters or acts of violence.
Earlier this year, BGEA sent chaplains the day after a shootout killed two police officers and injured five others in Allen, Kentucky.