Community rallies, prays in wake of shootings

BELLE GLADE — Local pastors and city authorities as well as Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Glades Substation staff conducted a press conference mixed with prayer rally and community togetherness demonstration at midday Friday, Nov. 22, after a recent wave of shootings in the area.

There have been at least three separate shootings in Belle Glade recently, within a matter of three weeks — one that left two young men dead. The City of Belle Glade, Mayor Steve Wilson and the city commissioners, the Glades Area Ministerial Association, Guardians of the Glades and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office had a joint news conference to release information to the community to help assure the residents that the community is safe and PBSO deputies are working to solve the cases.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
BELLE GLADE — Members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Glades Substation staff address the crowd at a rally Friday, Nov 22, near city hall.

Albert L. Polk IV, a deejay at the area’s local radio station Sugar 900, acted as master of ceremonies. “We’re here today to deliver a message to our community. We are a very loving community, one of the most close-knit communities in Palm Beach County, and we will remain that way. We’re here to deliver a message to not only residents but to young people and everybody,” he said.

Mayor Steve Wilson read a statement from the city regarding shootings that took place in Belle Glade on Oct. 30, Nov. 11 and Nov. 19: “It has been happening over and over again, so the question is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ … We have one goal in mind: to end the violence in our community. To whom it may concern … we are asking you to lay down those guns, or know that those guns will lay you down …

“We ask the sheriff’s department to put more boots on the ground,” said the mayor.

Several local ministers then recited prayers before PBSO officers took the microphone.

Maj. Eric Coleman stood to speak for Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who was unable to attend. He spoke about the shootings and the victims, including two black men ages 19 and 24, and “another six young men were injured in gun violence incidents.

“We have made an arrest in the latest case, a couple of arrests, which occurred Tuesday night here. That case does not appear to be related to the other cases. These are open cases, unfortunately … so I cannot go into details. I will tell you that all of the resources of the sheriff’s office are being utilized in to bring these cases to a successful conclusion and hold those who are responsible accountable.”

Maj. Coleman mentioned that through a Hill foundation grant, supplemented by the sheriff’s office, “we’re able to offer Shot Spotter technology here … that in many cases allows us to arrive on the scene of these incidents within a minute, prior to the phone calls even coming in from 911. We also have our real-time crime center up and running; it’s a state-of-the-art facility at the sheriff’s office. There are many cameras in the Glades region … rest assured that they are helping us in our endeavors.”

He said staff had been increased as well, but called on the community to help as much as possible. “These cases are like solving a puzzle. Every little piece needs to come together to bring a successful prosecution.” He urged anyone with information to call CrimeStoppers, where rewards may be offered, or “reach out to those deputies who work in these communities. You know them.”

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