Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson didn’t want to miss the community prayer vigil being held at the Raleigh Baptist Association (RBA) to pray for those impacted by the recent mass shooting.
“I was at another meeting, and I was told there was a prayer meeting going here, and I said, ‘I’ve got to get here,’” said Patterson, who has led Raleigh’s police force since August 2021.
Patterson was among the nearly 50 people who attended the prayer vigil at RBA’s headquarters on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Attendees included area pastors, chaplains, law enforcement officers and community leaders.
RBA Executive Director Patrick Fuller organized the vigil to show “unity and support” for the families of the victims, police, first responders and members of the Hedingham community in northeast Raleigh where the shooting took place.
The incident left five people dead and two others wounded. One of the victims was Raleigh police officer Gabriel Torres. Another officer, Casey Clark, was one of the individuals who was wounded.
“We’re dealing with the loss that we had at the police department, but we’re also hurting over the greater community,” Patterson said.
At the conclusion of the nearly 40-minute vigil, Fuller announced that the RBA will provide counseling vouchers to police, first responders and emergency personnel impacted by the tragedy, thanks to a grant provided by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
“We pray for the families that are grieving and hurting and broken,” Fuller said during his prayer. “We ask You by Your divine power to bring them the healing they need.”
The vigil included Scripture readings and remarks from pastors, chaplains and law enforcement officers, before a time of extended prayer.
Lee Smith, senior chaplain with the Garner Police Department and area representative with the International Conference of Police Chaplains, read from Psalm 38:14, which says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Smith said that while the words “brokenhearted” and “crushed” stand out in that verse, so does the word “near.”
“Indeed the Lord is near,” Smith said. “We never know what our lives face from day to day, but remember this – nothing is a surprise to God. That’s something that we can claim as we go to the Lord this morning.”
Ed Davis, who lives in the Hedingham community and is working to plant Missio Dei Church in southeast Raleigh, said he and his wife, Shelley, have been out in the neighborhood talking and praying with residents. Davis said people he’s talked to are still fearful, but they are open to talking about matters of life, death and eternity.
“Our hearts are heavy … but we believe that there is hope beyond the tragedy,” Davis said. “We believe that there is hope beyond death. That hope is Jesus Christ, who said Himself that He is the resurrection and the life.”
Davis added that members of several area churches plan to canvas the Hedingham community this Saturday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon to meet, talk and pray with residents. He invited others to join them.
“We just want to pray with folks and let them know they are not alone,” Davis said.
Patterson, who was among those who voiced a prayer during the vigil, asked attendees to continue to pray for first responders and the city of Raleigh.
“We just ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and keep us in your prayers,” Patterson said. “The Book of James says that ‘the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.’ So we’re going to trust God that He’s going to keep us during these difficult times.
“We’re going to heal together as a city, as a police department and we’re going to emerge stronger as a result of this.”
Several police officers in attendance thanked the community for their prayers and for organizing the prayer vigil. One requested prayer for wisdom for the department in decisions to be made in the future related to helping officers and the community heal.
And prayer is key to that healing, Patterson said.
“This is what our officers need to feel uplifted,” Patterson said. “This is what our community needs to feel whole again. The more that we can have these kinds of events is good for us.
“We know that there is power in prayer, and we want the prayer to continue for our city.”