Pastor Rodney Booth wants the killers of his 25-year-old son, Pastor Robert Booth of Hood Holiness Church of God in North Carolina, to know that they “took a great man away from" the world.
"I would want to tell the shooters they took a great man away from this Earth," Booth said in an interview with WFMY last Thursday. "You had a person who really wanted to make a difference."
Friends say Robert Booth was driven to share the Gospel with anyone willing to listen. But on May 25, he was shot dead by gunmen after he ministered to them outside his home in High Point.
“I want people to know that it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad. It wasn’t him being at the wrong place at the wrong time. It was just Robert being Robert, helping, and his life was ended like that,” Booth's friend, Brandon Smith, a fellow ministry worker, told Fox 8.
According to police, the late senior pastor of Hood Holiness Church of God saw a vehicle described as a 2008 to 2010 burgundy Nissan Rogue cruising through East Village Apartment Condominiums on Ardale Drive.
Booth went outside to “try to find out what was going on,” Smith said. And two male suspects wearing ski masks were reportedly inside the vehicle. Smith told Fox 8 that at some point during the encounter, the young preacher began sharing God’s word with the men.
“He believed in street ministry. He would go to the corner where the homeless were and just minister to them and just feed them, practically give you the shirt off his back,” Smith explained.
Gunshots soon rang out in the area, according to 911 calls, and one of the bullets struck and killed Booth.
“The boys is running towards the hotel. They got black masks on. It’s two boys. They shot (inaudible). They look like they’re about 15 to 16 years old,” one 911 caller cited by Fox 8 said.
The High Point Police Department is now looking for two suspects, described as black men of varying heights. They believe that the pastor’s killing is connected to someone close to the victim and suspects in another High Point homicide.
The late pastor’s parents say that while they are frustrated that no arrests have been made yet for their son’s murder, they believe fear of retribution is causing witnesses to stay silent. They urge anyone with information to come forward to the police.
"We are very disappointed," Deneka Booth told WFMY. "I know it's only been two weeks, but that two weeks for us is a lifetime."
The parents, who affectionately called him Bert, recalled how their son had tried to minister to others with a difference.
"He wasn't just this dry preacher," the mother said. "He was a grown man calling me mommy. He always had kids over at the house because they gravitated towards him. I don't think there was any instrument that he couldn't play."
Bishop Kerry A.T. Thomas, the founder of Grace Ecumenical Commune of Churches, who installed Booth as lead pastor of Hood Holiness Church of God in a May 21 service, said in a statement shared on Facebook that he had never experienced “a death so crushing” in his 24 years of ministry.
“Elder Brandon Smith called me to share a situation that involved Robert. Without hesitation, I arose from my bed of comfort and maintained my watch at High Point Regional until I was allowed entry into the hospital. After 24 years of ministry, I have never experienced a death so crushing and a responsibility so arduous as to relay the message of his passing to his parents, siblings, his fiancée and church family,” Thomas stated.
Thomas described Booth as a zealous follower of Christ who freely shared his musical talents.
“When I first met Robert, he was a budding musician with a love for God and a heart for the underdog. He was accompanied by Deacon Shawn Snead, who you could not tell me was not his blood brother. We quickly became friends but unbeknownst to me, he knew that I would one day become his Pastor,” Thomas wrote.
“Pastor Booth was the affiliate pastor that everyone wanted. I assigned him as the director of outreach over the organization, and he immediately got to work. You never had to micromanage him or recommit him to the vision because he took ownership over the weight of ministry. I literally watched him give himself to dozens of churches, funeral homes and independent artists, not for the love of money but to share his gift of music and ministry to all that would have him. When he was received, he rejoiced. When he was rejected, he mourned but he continued."
He further noted that Booth played music at his installation service on May 21, showing him to be a man who was “a servant first.”
“On Friday, May 21st 2021, the Grace Ecumenical Commune of Churches came from across the country to celebrate and officially install Robert as Senior Pastor of the Hood Holiness Church of God, a work that had already been in effect throughout the City of High Point," Thomas said. "Pastor Booth, being a servant first, played at his own service. The amount of passion and genuineness displayed by this giant of a man was indicative of perhaps him knowing that he was not here to stay."
Video shared on Booth’s Facebook page also shows that he proposed to his girlfriend just a day after he was ordained senior pastor of Hood Holiness Church of God.
The Christian Post reached out Booth’s fiancée for comment. But a response was not received by press time. His friends remained grieved that his killers also robbed Booth's 2-year-old son of his father.
“There is — never will, never be another Robert Booth,” Smith told Fox 8. “To the guys [who did this], you didn’t even give him a chance to live. You didn’t give him a chance to be that husband, to be that great father. You took his life before it could even begin.”