This weekend, pastors at funerals for the victims of the racially motivated shooting on Aug. 26 in Jacksonville challenged the community to ensure that not only their memory remains on our minds but also why they were killed.
Anolt “AJ” Laguerre Jr., Jerrald Gallion and Angela Carr were shot in what police are investigating as a hate crime targeting Black people. The shooter, from Clay County, took his own life as police closed in on the Dollar General on Kings Road.
Carr’s son Chayvaughn Payne told mourners Friday at The Bethel Church in Downtown that recent days have been difficult. He asked people to keep his mother in their memories “at all costs.”
“She was strong. She was a hard-working woman. I watched her do everything as a child. We talked every day, not matter what. Mad, sad, happy, it didn’t matter. It could be raining outside. It could be a hurricane, she is going to call. That Saturday, it wasn’t right,” he said.
Payne said the time to cry has passed. We should now celebrate the victims for who they were: Carr, a mother who did anything for anyone. Gallion, a father and deep-dyed Jaguars fan. Laguerre, a budding gamer whose presence radiated to those around him.
Laguerre, 19, was the youngest of seven children. His mother died when he was 5. Yet, through it all, his family members say AJ was a source of resilience and positivity.
“AJ never had a record, never received a referral in school, and never got into a fight,” his brother Q’uantavius Laguerre wrote in a GoFundMe post. “He was a kind-hearted and gentle soul who loved playing video games and supporting his family and friends.”
The Laguerre family held an intimate service of their own on the Westside to honor his life on Friday morning. As both funerals began, the sun refused to shine, and rain fell.
“Your unwavering support has been the pillar we’re leaning on, and we’ll never forget this outpouring of love,” his family wrote. “It lets us know the world is behind us during these hard times.”
The Rev. David Green Sr. pastored Carr at St. Stephen AME Church. Before he eulogized her on Friday, he prayed for elected officials to soften their hearts and pass legislation that would make racial justice real. He said the events of Aug. 26 were not aggression toward individuals.
“We gathered together as a hurting community because this was not just an attack on the Carr family, and the other two families who lost their loved ones, this was an attack on our entire community. So, we come together to mourn, to lament, to heal – and to act,” Green said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a national civil rights figure, also attended the service for Carr. He challenged lawmakers to reconsider their policies at the end of his eulogy.
“Justice is making sure that all of the things surrounding (the shooter’s) death, including the gun laws, including the security, including all of the things that were put into place that aided and abetted this mad man to do this. They must pay,” he said.
Sharpton, Green and others who spoke on Friday morning said the Bible makes it clear that vengeance is not to be undertaken by people.
On Saturday morning, the Rev. John Guns, who pastored Gallion at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, told mourners at his funeral there “is a greater price” the shooter will pay for his actions after death.
Guns has said over and over since the shooting that Gallion’s death broke his heart differently than any of the nearly three dozen murder victims he has eulogized over the past 27 years.
“I wept like he was my son,” Guns said Saturday. “I figured out why. I’m tired of burying our future.”
Gallion was one of 110 people who joined St. Paul this summer. The timing of that decision is what provided slight solace to mourners.
Guns said, “He was not a thug. He was not a wayward father. He was loyal. He was committed. And, he could be trusted. That needs to be told.”
In the back of St. Paul, Cameron Finley could hardly believe he was looking at a casket with his friend inside. Gallion’s 4-year old daughter was taking a break from the service when Finley saw her in the vestibule.
Through his pain, Finley promised Gallion’s young daughter, “I will forever be here for you.” He shook her hand to confirm the promise and kissed the back of her hand to seal it.
At the front of the church, Guns focused on a passage in Genesis where a man who was mistreated did not take revenge against those who harmed him.
His message: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Lead photo: Chayvaughn Payne, left, tells mourners at The Bethel Church that his mother, Angela Carr, was a hard working woman who “did what she had to do “for her kids, her grandkids (and) hell, she even did it for her friends.” Carr was joined in the pulpit by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today