Gifford shootings: Gospel singing, preaching fill the air in Gifford, in response to violence

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Rev. Jimmy Lee Hill Sr. was erecting the tent next to Smith Plaza Grocery on 45th Street for the kickoff of the three-day revival in Gifford when heard the sound that reminded him why he was there Wednesday morning.

"We were putting up the tent and we heard the gunshots" from Wednesday's shooting in the 4400 block of 34th Court that wounded two men, Hill said.

Hours later, gospel singing and preaching filled the air instead of gunfire as more than 100 people gathered under and around the tent. Hill and other ministers and community leaders organized the three-day event as a response to gun violence that has struck Gifford in recent weeks, including three separate incidents on Easter weekend. Hill is scheduled to preach Friday night.

"We need our community back," said retiree Charles Wadley, who assisted motorists with parking for the revival's opening night. "We can't have blacks killing blacks."

Indian River County Undersheriff Bud Spencer spoke to the crowd about the Sheriff's Office response to the shooting before the Rev. Bennie Rhyant, president of the Pastors Association of Indian River County, preached.

Dozens more people heard the music and the sermon from their homes. Jamal Shaw, 29, was on his porch with family members listening to the revival. He was also within earshot of Wednesday's gunfire, but was asleep after working the graveyard shift as a stocker.

"There's shots going right by my house," he said. "It didn't used to be this bad when I lived here before. Now, I'm ready to move."

Several residents expressed concern about the source of the recent violence being visitors from Fort Pierce. No arrests have been made in any of the shootings.

The revival resumes Thursday at 7 p.m., but some residents want the outreach to the community to continue beyond the tarp and outside the church walls.

"These young people need leadership," said longtime Gifford resident Glen Perry, 60. "Their parents haven't taught them what we've been through. We're disconnected from our own people."

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