(This story originally appeared in the Bradenton Herald)
BRADENTON – A crowd gathered around Arthur Huggins during a vigil for a murdered Bradenton teenager Wednesday night.
Heads bowed, they nodded as the pastor pleaded for an end to the violence. Some shielded lit candles in cupped hands.
“Not only are we looking for healing today, Lord, we’re looking for answers. Lord, we’re looking for justice,” said Huggins, an associate pastor for Community Outreach Word of Deliverance Church in Bradenton. “Lord, we pray Lord, that you would allow justice to rain down, Lord, from heaven on this day. Lord, that you would seek out the one, Lord, that sought out and destroyed this young man’s life.”
A few feet away stood the chair where witnesses say 16-year-old Southeast High sophomore Zorry Jenkins Jr. was sitting when fatally shot by unknown assailants Saturday night. Five lit candles in the ground illuminated the chair, which was covered in thin plastic.
Huggin’s prayer came at the end of a march of more than 40 people from G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School to stand by the home in the 700 block of 12th Avenue West where Jenkins was killed. Escorted by Master Patrol Officer Joshua Small and Sgt. Anthony Cerniglia from the Bradenton Police Department, the group walked down Sixth Street West chanting: “Black lives do matter.”
On the night of the shooting, BPD officers gassing up squad cars at a city facility in the 700 block of 13th Avenue reportedly heard several gunshots, according to the Bradenton Police Department.
“We know there are a lot of witnesses out there,” said Bradenton Detective James Curulla this week. “We need some assistance if they would like to see justice served.”
Jenkins’ maternal grandmother Sonia Hines, 63, said at the march the family is dealing with Jenkins’ death day by day. Hines helped raise Jenkins.
“Devastated me,” she said. “You never think it can happen to you. It’s unbelievable. It’s still unreal. I haven’t come to grips with it yet, you know. I just feel like he’s somewhere and he’s gonna come back.”
Her relationship with her grandson was fantastic, Hines said. She helped him with school work.
“He was trouble at one time but kids go through that adolescent stage and he got better,” Hines said. “He told me ‘Grandma, I’m gonna be something in life. I’m gonna be something.'”
Kimla Murrell, 42, lives in the neighborhood where the shooting took place. She came to show support for the community and Jenkins’ family.
“We’ve lost a lot of young men and the violence just continues and it has to stop,” she said. “It’s just very hurtful that we’re losing young lives and something has to be done.”
Jenkins’ sister, Deombra Hines, said she couldn’t cope with the community silence surrounding the shooting.
“The people out here now know who did it and they won’t say nothing,” the 24-year-old said. “That’s just what making it hurt worse.”
As Hines broke down crying, her cousin reached over and gave her a hug.
“They ain’t trying to listen to nobody,” she said when asked what she would say to those with information about her brother’s murder. “They just keep shooting and killing and it’s worse because it really hit somebody that’s real close to you. … He was nothing but a baby.”