Boy, 15, arrested in Richmond church shooting

| February 19, 2010

Police arrested a 15-year-old boy Thursday in connection with a shooting in a Richmond church that wounded a pair of teenage brothers sitting in the pews and sent parishioners diving for cover.

The boy was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy just after 7 a.m. at a Richmond home, as officers executed search warrants at that address and at least two others, Sgt. Bisa French said.

The boy's name was withheld because he is a minor. French would not disclose his alleged role in the shooting Sunday at New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, or even whether investigators believe he was one of the young men who entered the church.

Police and witnesses said three young men with black sweatshirt hoods pulled over their heads walked into the packed church on Roosevelt Avenue, and then while the choir sang "Leaning on Jesus," one of them fired five shots with a pistol.

Bullets hit a 14-year-old boy in the shoulder and his 19-year-old brother in the leg as parishioners screamed and ducked for cover.

Officers have not discussed a motive. But residents say the victims come from a part of town with a large gang population, and that the attack may have been gang-related or at least based on mistaken impressions.

"Our gangs in this part of town aren't the same as the gangs in central Richmond, where the church is," said a friend of the victims who lives near their house in North Richmond and asked not to be named out of safety concerns. "They're doing OK now, but I tell you it's scary – people tried to kill those boys and they live right here.

"You don't know if someone mixed up the territories and the people or what happened, or if someone's going to come back to finish it up," said the friend.

The house where the victims live was raided last summer by police looking for drugs after a series of explosions were heard there, neighbors said. A modest bungalow with four vehicles parked in the driveway, it sat empty Thursday.

"There hasn't been any trouble at that house since that raid," said one neighbor, who was also afraid to be named. "This block isn't as bad as two blocks away, where all the shootings happen."

Several miles southeast at 21st Street and Roosevelt Avenue, where the church is, residents said the audaciousness of shooting people in a church was a new low for Richmond.

"That's crazy going into a church like that – it just isn't done, I don't care who you are," said Edith Guzman, 19, who lives across the street.

Neighbors said there was a police crackdown on gangs and violence in the neighborhood about three years ago, and it was somewhat effective.

"Things are better now," said Luz Maria Capuchino, 39, who lives kitty-corner from the church. "Until this weekend, I don't think we'd had a shooting since Christmas, when some gunshots hit my truck and my brother's truck in front of my house."

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Category: Church Security

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