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From bloodstained street to sacred ground

More than 100 East Side residents joined in a vigil Sunday afternoon on the spot where 15-year-old Ke'one Littlejohn was gunned down Thursday.

As those residents stood in the street outside 467 Sherman St., Buffalo police had two suspects in custody and were searching for a 22-year-old man for questioning in the slaying.

"This is not a ceremony," said Minister James Giles of the Stop the Violence Coalition. "We are going to anoint these streets so these incidents won't happen again."

Then, as members of Ke'one's family stood before him, Mr. Giles anointed each, young and old, with oil on the forehead to protect them from danger.

"We believe that the Holy Spirit will empower you to endure this," he said as some of them wept. "We believe that God will replace everything that has been taken away from you -- the joy, the peace . . . in the name of Jesus."

David M. Collins, former Common Council member from the Masten District, drew applause in praising the police for making two arrests so quickly and the witness for giving cooperation.

"When we come forward and help the police, they can do things they otherwise couldn't do," Collins said. "So I commend the party that came forward."

Jackie Wells of Parents Encouraging Accountability & Closure to Everyone, or PEACE, lit a candle and said: "We remember Ke'one, whose life was tragically cut short, and we are all deeply affected by this act of violence. To all victims of violent deaths -- our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers -- may you all rest in peace."

A friend of the family, Brenda Bennard, said: "This violence has to end between our black people. It's nothing but genocide. Teach them to keep their eye on the Lord. They can do all things through Him."

As they spoke, the loudspeaker echoed off porches where residents stood and listened.

"Something must be done until we put an end to this madness," said Masten Council Member Antoine M. Thompson. He announced that a hearing on street violence is scheduled for 6 p.m. today. in Council Chambers and urged residents to attend.

The Rev. Jeff Carter, pastor of Ephesus Cathedral, said violence among youths is a result of having removed mention of God from the classroom and from prison programs.

"You have sacrificed these children to the idol gods of Nike and Jordan," he said. "We spend more money for what's on their feet than for what goes into their head."

Dorian Gaskin, vice president of FATHERS (Fathers Armed Together to Help Educate, Restore and Save Our Children), passed around a bucket to collect money for the family, after depositing $200 from his organization.

"Ke'one was one of my cousins," he said. "The time for retaliation is never. Nothing stops a bullet like a job."

A funeral service for Ke'one will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in Refuge Temple of Christ West Side, 109 Chenango St., at Massachusetts Avenue.


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