Pastors amp up outreach after murder of Rochester boy, 12

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – There are three churches within a one-block radius of where Juan Lopez was gunned down Monday.

The 12-year-old Rochester City School Student seventh-grader was walking with a 16-year-old around 7 o’clock on Atkinson Street, police say, when someone opened fire. Juan died on the sidewalk. The other boy is in the hospital in stable condition with life-altering injuries.

Pastors from the three nearby churches rallied Tuesday afternoon on Clifton Street, hoping to compel people to come forward with information about the case.

“Fear is the base,” Bishop Jeffrey Melvin, from Power House Kingdom Cathedral, said. “They’re afraid to speak up because if the community finds out that they talk to the police, their life or their families’ lives can be in danger I have found that we as clergy members, we are good mediators because they may be more apt to talk to us than the police.”

The pastors say fear is also driving the people pulling the trigger.

“They’re running around with guns because they’re afraid so they go and they strap up,” Pastor Jams Cooper, from Love Fellowship Worship Center, said. “Now you’ve got a kid with a gun who is afraid and when they’re threatened, they’re going to pull out the gun and they’re going to start shooting.”

Another issue? They believe many of the young people committing violence don’t have a sense of purpose – or a faith in something greater than them.

“Rochester is the most un-churched city in America and look at the correlation between our crime, our despair, and the fact that we walked away from God,” Melvin said.

So, they’re stepping up outreach efforts – particularly with mothers.

“What’s going on in the homes when 80 percent of Black and brown children [who] are born, before they come through the birth canal, their fathers are gone?” Melvin asked.

So these men of God are trying to bring the word of God to them.

“Can we get in the front door to talk to the parent?” Pastor Benjamin Cox, from Leadership Roundtable of Rochester, said. “In certain cases, we do. We do. But all parents aren’t as welcoming as we are – as eager to try and help their child.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, no arrests had been made in the homicide.

The religious leaders say they are devastated by Juan’s death, but determined to keep fighting gun violence.

“I need for everybody to look at this 12-year-old as if it’s their own child,” Cooper said. “Are you going to sit at the dining room table and carve your turkey? What if you had to do that over the blood of one of your children? Black, white, Hispanic: it doesn’t matter. We have more in common than we have apart. Let’s look at the humanity of this.”

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