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Marshall vigil offers prayer, dialogue after mass shootings

MARSHALL — Though only four people showed up for Marshall Against Violence’s prayer vigil Wednesday, the tiny group bowed together, anyway, asking God to bring comfort and peace to those affected by recent mass shootings in the nation.

“I’m not moved by numbers,” said MAV president Demetria McFarland as she thanked the modest assembly for attending the vigil, held in the community room of Marshall Fire Department.

“You told us that where two or more are gathered, you are in the midst,” McFarland said, referring to Matthew 18:20 in her prayer.

The intimate gathering shared how heavy their hearts were as they rallied together to pray for the cities of El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, both of which experienced shootings over the weekend.

A Saturday morning shooting at a crowded El Paso Walmart left 22 people dead and dozens of others wounded. Sunday’s early morning shooting left nine people dead when a gunman opened fire in a nightclub area of Dayton, Ohio. One of the victim’s was his sister.

“I’m very upset at what happened. It seems to be repetitive,” McFarland said.

“It seems like every time we look around, we’re losing people,” she said.

Prayers also were extended Wednesday for the city of Gilroy, California, which saw the deaths of three people during a July 28 shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

The attendees

Beverly Joseph said she was at the vigil because she agrees something needs to be done.

“I came because I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have a choice, because in my lifetime — I’ve been in this world 60-plus years — I’ve experienced hatred from Day One, even before I was born, even conceived, by the way of my ancestors and my parents,” she said.

“To say I’m angry would be saying it mildly; to say I’m hurt would be saying it mildly,” Joseph said. “I empathize with the parents. Every child who has died unnecessarily by way of hatred, by way of torture, by way of abuse, I cried out as a parent.”

Maxine Golightly said she came to support MAV’s efforts, too, because such tragedies can happen anywhere.

“It can happen in Marshall,” Golightly said. “So we all should be trying to do whatever it is we can.”

Sarah Swofford said she wasn’t there to give any opinions on politics but did want to join the group in praying particularly for El Paso, which was once her home.

“I lived in El Paso for eight years. My idea is to pray for the city of El Paso and for the people and families that lost their loved ones and also our law enforcement, first responders, all those,” Swofford said, saying she still has friends there.

The prayers

McFarland led the group in prayer, asking God to lift up the victims, their families and all affected by the shootings, including first responders, law enforcement and medical staff.

“We pray for those who had to witness such a senseless tragedy,” McFarland said.

She also prayed for the gunmen responsible for the shootings.

“We lift up their families, because we know that even now that they’re questioning themselves what happened and why,” she said.

She prayed against the spirit of hate, racism and other factors leading to such incidents.

“We come together in unity and love and just ask you to continue to guide and direct us how we can make a difference in this world,” McFarland said.

McFarland also prayed for the mayors of the cities, governors of the states, President Donald Trump and the men and women of Congress. She ended the prayer by asking for protection of the future generation.

“We don’t want our children and grandchildren to go through what we’re going through,” she said.

McFarland said she will send cards to the leaders of the mourning cities and letters to the president and Congress, asking for firmer regulations on gun laws to help stop the violence.

Protesters chant as Trump visits Dayton, El Paso

EL PASO — Aiming to play the traditional role of healer during national tragedy, President Donald Trump paid visits Wednesday to cities reeling from mass shootings that left 31 dead and dozens more wounded. But his divisive words preceded him, large protests greeted him and biting political attacks soon followed.

The president and first lady Melania Trump flew to El Paso late in the day after visiting the Dayton, Ohio, hospital where many of the victims of Sunday’s attack in that city were treated. For most of the day, the president was kept out of view of the reporters traveling with him, but the White House said the couple met with hospital staff and first responders and spent time with wounded survivors and their families.

Trump told them he was “with them,” said press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “Everybody received him very warmly. Everybody was very, very excited to see him.” Trump said the same about his reception in the few moments he spoke with the media at a 911 call center in El Paso.

But outside Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, at least 200 protesters gathered, blaming Trump’s incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the country and demanding action on gun control . Some said Trump was not welcome in their city. There were Trump supporters, as well.

In El Paso, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke spoke to several hundred people at a separate gathering. O’Rourke, a potential Democratic 2020 presidential rival, has blistered Trump as a racist instigator but also told those in his audience the open way the people of his home town treat each other could be “the example ot the United States of America.”

Emotions are still raw in both cities in the aftermath of the weekend shootings. Critics contend Trump’s own words have contributed to a combustible climate that has spawned death and other violence.

The vitriol continued Wednesday.

Trump’s motorcade passed El Paso protesters holding “Racist Go Home” signs. And Trump spent part of his flight between Ohio and Texas airing his grievances on Twitter, berating Democratic lawmakers, O’Rourke and the press. It was a remarkable split-screen appearance for TV viewers, with White House images of handshakes and selfies juxtaposed with angry tweets.

Trump and the White House have forcefully disputed the idea that he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions. And he continued to do so on Wednesday.

“My critics are political people,” Trump said as he left the White House, noting the apparent political leanings of the shooter in the Dayton killings. He also defended his rhetoric on issues including immigration, claiming instead that he “brings people together.”

Some 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse, according to recent Pew Research Center polling. And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely.

In Dayton, raw anger and pain were on display as protesters chanted “Ban those guns” and “Do something!” during Trump’s visit.

Holding a sign that said “Not Welcome Here,” Lynnell Graham said she thinks Trump’s response to the shootings has been insincere.

“To me he comes off as fake,” she said.

Dorothee Bouquet, stood in the bright sun with her 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, tucked in a stroller. She told them they were going to a protest “to tell grownups to make better rules.”

But in El Paso, where more protests awaited, Raul Melendez, whose father-in-law, David Johnson, was killed in Saturday’s shooting, said the most appropriate thing Trump could do was to meet with relatives of the victims.

“It shows that he actually cares, if he talks to individual families,” said Melendez, who credits Johnson with helping his 9-year-old daughter survive the attack by pushing her under a counter.

Melendez, an Army veteran and the son of Mexican immigrants, said he holds only the shooter responsible for the attack.

“That person had the intent to hurt people, he already had it,” he said. “No one’s words would have triggered that.”

Local Democratic lawmakers who’d expressed concern about the visit said Trump had nonetheless hit the right notes Wednesday.

“He was comforting. He did the right things and Melania did the right things. It’s his job to comfort people,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, who nonetheless said he was “very concerned about a president that divides in his rhetoric and plays to race in his rhetoric.”

“I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the president of the United States came to Dayton,” added Mayor Nan Whaley, who said she was glad Trump had not stopped at the site of the shooting.

“A lot of the time his talk can be very divisive, and that’s the last thing we need in Dayton,” she said.

Grisham, responding on Twitter from aboard Air Force One, sad it was “genuinely sad” to see the lawmakers “immediately hold such a dishonest press conference in the name of partisan politics.”

Despite protests in both cities, the White House insisted Trump had received positive receptions. One aide tweeted that Trump was a “rock star” at the Dayton hospital.

The White House did not allow reporters and photographers to watch as he talked with wounded victims, medical staff and law enforcement officers there, but then quickly published its own photos on social media and released a video of his visit.

There was discord in El Paso, too. Rep. Veronica Escobar, the Democratic congresswoman who represents the city, declined to meet with Trump. “I refuse to be a prop,” she said in an interview on CNN.

Visits to the sites of mass shootings have become a regular pilgrimage for recent president, but Trump, who has sometimes struggled to project empathy during moments of national tragedy, has stirred unusual backlash.

Though he has been able to summon soothing words and connect one-on-one with victims, he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements — just recently painting immigrants as “invaders,” suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should “go back” to their home countries even though they’re U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.

As the presidential motorcade rolled up to a 911 center in El Paso, it passed a sign aimed at Trump that said “Racist go home.”

Elsewhere in the city, O’Rourke told several hundred people that his hometown “bore the brunt” of hatred from the shooting but could also hold an answer to the strife.

“The way that we welcome one another and see our differences not as disqualifying or dangerous but as the very source if our strength, as the foundation of our success — that needs to be the example of the United States of America,” O’Rourke said.

On the eve of his trip, Trump lashed out at O’Rourke, who had tweeted that Trump “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible” and “should not come to El Paso.”

O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement — & be quiet!” Trump snapped back.

And on his flight between one scene of tragedy and the second, Trump said he turned in as another 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, excoriated him in a speech that slammed him as incapable of offering the moral leadership that has defined the presidency for generations and “fueling a literal carnage” in America.

Trump declared the speech “Sooo Boring!” and warned that, “The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks” if Biden wins.

Shelters brace for extra traffic as East Texas heat index soars into 100s

Longview shelters braced to protect people from the heat as the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory that one meteorologist said could be extended through the weekend.

High humidity coupled with afternoon temperatures in the 90s combined to raise the heat index values to 107 Wednesday and a forecast value of 105 today, the National Weather Service reported. Nighttime heating index values are predicted to hover in the mid-80s.

The weather service in Shreveport issued a heat advisory about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday that went into later than morning and was expected to remain in effect until 7 o’clock tonight, weather service meteorologist Aaron Stevens said Wednesday.

He said the weather service likely will extend the advisory through the weekend.

The advisory will be extended “until we get some kind of change to cool us off a little bit,” Stevens said.

Stevens said with humidity as high as 52% as of 2:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, temperatures in the low to mid-90s feel as if it is 105 to 109 degrees.

“The more humidity you have, the harder it is for your body to cool,” Stevens said.

Meanwhile, Longview shelters are offering relief to people without roofs over their heads, and the shelters expect to fill more beds while the weather is hot.

Both the Hiway 80 Rescue Mission at 3117 W. Marshall Ave. and the Salvation Army at 519 E. Cotton St. reported seeing more people arrive.

Hiway 80 Executive Director Rusty Fennell said 195 people stayed overnight Tuesday — 10 more than Friday — and he said he expects eight to 10 more people to arrive throughout this week.

Fennell said the rescue mission Tuesday night implemented the inclement weather policy through the remainder of the heat advisory to allow people who have been expelled because of past violations to return.

“We don’t want to turn anybody away right now,” Fennell said. He said the mission’s doors open at 3 p.m.

Doors open at 5 p.m. at the Salvation Army shelter, Salvation Army Capt. Nick Hutchinson said.

“The shelter is not at capacity right now,” he said at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Hutchinson said the shelter also serves dinner at 6 p.m. every day it is open to those who are staying at the shelter and to others.

The Salvation Army will not open its drop-in center today at 504 E. Cotton St. because staff will be at a health fair, Hutchinson said. However, he said it will be open Friday and likely on Saturday if the heat advisory remains in effect.

The drop-in center, which offers cold drinks, snacks, board games and movies for visitors, typically keeps hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The rescue mission also will keep its day room open during the day to supply bottled water and respite from the heat to visitors, Fennell said. The day room also supplies bottled water to shelter guests who hold day jobs.

Newgate Mission at 207 S. Mobberly Ave. also is extending its day center hours past 3 p.m. during the week to 5 p.m. to coincide with the Salvation Army opening its shelter at 5 p.m., Executive Director Hollie Bruce said. The center opens at 7 a.m. and serves breakfast and lunch.

She said Newgate also is giving away fans to people who can prove they have a place to live and bring identification.

Newgate also offers showers and personal hygiene products, Bruce said.

Man dies after being shot by police at Longview apartment complex

Longview police fatally shot an 18-year-old man Wednesday morning after he raised and pointed a gun at them at an apartment complex parking lot, Police Chief Mike Bishop said in a statement.

Bishop identified the man as Detravian Allison and said he succumbed to his injuries after being taken to a Longview hospital. Allison’s town of residence was not made known Wednesday.

Stephanie Ross, a mother of six who has lived at Longview Square Apartments at 1600 Pine Tree Road for about two years, said she heard four gunshots.

“I was outside,” Ross said. “I got low and went to observe where the shots were coming from. I saw a young man drop. He did get handcuffed, and he was bleeding face down.”

The incident occurred 20 minutes after police responded at 10:40 a.m. to a business in the 400 block of West Loop 281 regarding a criminal trespass, Bishop said. An employee told police a man had made threats before leaving the location.

Police obtained the man’s vehicle description and license plate number that matched a vehicle stolen in an aggravated robbery reported Friday to Longview police, Bishop said.

Police began checking retail parking lots and apartment complexes and found the vehicle, along with two men inside it, in the Longview Square apartment complex.

Tenants saw police officers take a young man in handcuffs to a patrol vehicle at about 2:25 p.m. A youth also was seen being taken to a police vehicle about 20 minutes later.

“We did detain a second person,” Longview Police Capt. Ben Kemper said. “We are trying to determine whether they were involved.”

Ross voiced support for police amid criticism from other tenants.

“LPD police don’t shoot anybody for nothing,” she said. “It’s sad that the boy got shot, but they’re doing their jobs. They have to defend themselves.”

She and other adults expressed concern about their safety and that of their children.

“They need to make sure it is safe,” said Regina Walker, a four-year tenant who lives in the complex with her 4-year-old granddaughter. “We’ve got kids over here.”

A policewoman also approached the tenants to tell them to stay calm.

Bishop did not indicate how many officers were involved in the shooting but said they will be placed on paid administrative leave until the Texas Rangers investigate the matter.

The incident is the second officer-involved shooting in Longview since December, when a police officer was placed on leave after the shooting of Randy Carl Jeffrey, 33, of Mount Pleasant during an East Marshall Avenue confrontation in which he shot at officers.

Longview police shot Kenneth Earl Thomas, 41, a suspect in the murder of Kimberly Wallace, on July 27 near Broughton Park after he shot at four officers, according the the police department.