The Valdosta Daily Times
Residents of the area surrounding 1401 N. Troup St., the site of a fatal shooting Sunday morning, assembled Monday to hold a prayer vigil for the victim and address the issue of violence surrounding the business and the neighborhood at large.
Alfred Pierre Bradley Jr., 24, was shot and killed at 4:15 a.m. Sunday in the doorway of T&D Snacks and Fashions. Valdosta police investigators have identified suspects and are preparing to file charges, Valdosta Police Cmdr. Brian Childress said Monday afternoon.
Valdosta City Councilman James Wright began organizing the prayer vigil soon after he heard news of the shooting, he said Monday. He began getting in touch with pastors who serve the community to have them pray and offer words of advice for the community, which has become frustrated with what they call the nuisance of late-night gatherings at the business.
Residents of the area complained of noise late into the night, sometimes until 5 a.m. One resident complained of loud music and cursing, while another expressed concerns that gang-related activity was taking place in the area.
The residents, as well as Wright, agreed that crowds of 200 assembling outside the business and along the street, sometimes on weeknights, are a regular occurrence.
While the business appears in Lowndes County tax records as a food and clothing shop, through its glass windows and doors, pool tables and entertainment machines including a slot machine are visible. Beer bottle caps and malt liquor bottles litter the parking lot in front of the business.
Noise and violence has been an ongoing problem in the neighborhood, according to the neighbors, who presented a long list of concerns and ideas to solve the problem, starting with the shutdown of the business.
Wright encouraged the livid residents to invest personal responsibility in the improvement of the community, and suggested "looking for alternate ways for recreation," such as in a nearby park.
Velma Miles spoke about gun control laws to the crowd, but rather than criticizing the National Rifle Association, which she said does a good job in the registration and sale of licensed firearms, she expressed that the problem was in unregulated gun theft.
"The gun that killed Pierre probably wasn't a registered gun," Miles said. "We need to be moved by Pierre's death to a greater calling. We keep on waiting on the white horse—it's not coming."
Vivian Cody was the first to say the business should be shut down, and that throughout the week it is a hot spot for late night activity.
"This place is full of our boys and girls until two, three, four in the morning," Cody said. "We knew something was going to happen."
Barbara Dye said the business "was all cleaned up at one time.”
"I live just on the next street over, and it gets so loud sometimes you can't hear your own TV," Dye said. "There's just a lot of cursing and loud music."
Pastor J.P. Miller of Beulah Temple Ministries was the last of three pastors to speak and pray at the event. In a booming voice, he called on the Lord to help spur the crowd into action.
"Let us band together and prepare our feet to walk and spread change to turn this community around," Miller said. "Let us not languish in this issue. This is our battle; this is our war! Let us know this child did not die in vain."
Wright further called the crowd into action, asking that they assemble together at the next Valdosta City Council meeting to raise public interest in violence in the area, which he called a "constant nuisance in the community."
Wright believes the solution to the issue is to rezone the area and the building to prevent the business from being able to sell alcohol.
Police issued a summons for possible alcohol ordinance violation to the owner of the business on Saturday, Childress said.