Random killing of motorist stirs prayers, reflection
Those at Saturday's prayer vigil in Seattle's Central Area said the death of Justin Ferrari hit close to home and has forced them to think about what they could do about gun violence in their neighborhood.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It was an unusual sight for Seattle: couples, business owners, pastors, activists, kids and moms and dads of all colors, praying hand in hand on the corner of East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
They stood on the sidewalk and said to each other the words that describe Thursday's shooting of Justin Ferrari: senseless, heartbreaking, random.
In hushed tones, they asked: What if the bullet had hit its intended target instead? Witnesses said two young men were arguing on opposite sides of the street. If one had shot the other, would neighbors have dismissed it as just another gang shooting?
Instead, the bullet hit Ferrari, a father of two running errands with his young children and his parents near his Madrona home. His father held him while he died in his car.
And it seemed on Saturday that Ferrari's death touched the whole community. Last weekend, street violence was like background noise.
That's how Jeff Kercher felt, anyway. His kids are in the same skiing group as Ferrari's. Kercher drives through the same intersection every weekend at least. He knows about the violence in his neighborhood, has noticed that gun-related deaths have been on the rise, but he and his neighbors forget, he said.
"We become numb to it," he said.
Until this shooting.
Seattle police are investigating and are asking anyone with information to call 911 or the homicide tip line at 206-233-5000. They have released only a very general description of the gunman: an African-American man in his 20s.
Those at Saturday's prayer vigil were still reeling. Some said they were scared to drive through their own neighborhood. An interracial couple said they would move before their kids were old enough to get drawn into the violence they see among African-American youth in Seattle. People cried, shook their heads and said the shooting is proof of government's failure to help. They wanted to talk to the mayor, the Police Department, about what could be done. One woman declined to speak because she felt, she said, "raw."
Four pastors who led Saturday's brief prayer near a pile of memorial flowers, candles and notes are not new to such vigils. They've held them at the scenes of recent shootings in Rainier Beach and Pioneer Square. They ask God to bring love and a sense of purpose to kids who have none. Then they minister on the street.
"We're gonna not be responding. We're gonna be responsible," said Pastor Ray Rogers.
But the ministers said they need help. And that's what was remarkable about Saturday's gathering, though it was only about 30 people on the sidewalk, holding hands for just a few minutes. The usual crowd of black activists and ministers was joined by people who don't always turn out for this kind of vigil.
"The group that came out today, it was a very beautiful thing, and I hope that we can start clearing some of the garbage that comes between us and bond together, because it's going to take all of us to take back these streets," said Pastor Greg Banks. "This is not a black issue. This is not a white issue. It's a human issue."
And human is what everyone seemed to feel in the circle. Vulnerable, and human, and wondering what to tell their own kids about someone else's daddy. One family brought sidewalk chalk and let their young boys write messages on the sidewalk: "Peace" and "No guns."
Others cornered a group of police officers who showed up and scheduled a neighborhood meeting.
"If it had been just another gang shooting, it would never have drawn the attention that it's drawn, if it had been just another African-American teenager," said Ed West, co-owner of the Catfish Corner restaurant.
"I can't say that it bothers me that it took someone out of the norm ... to draw such attention, but it's saddening that it took something like this."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.