In response to four murders in Pine Bluff within a period of three days, a group of ministers and concerned citizens quickly staged a march against violence Wednesday morning.
The march, which began at Harding Avenue and Main Street, ended on the north side of the Pine Bluff Civic Center, where the group called for an end to the violence that has claimed 16 lives since the first of the year.
The most recent death happened Tuesday night when police responded to a residence at 2809 West 40th Avenue in reference to a shooting.
Upon arrival, “yelling and screaming were heard from inside the residence,” according to a Pine Bluff Police Department news release.
The officer entered the home and found Jamonte Smith, 20, lying on the floor with a gunshot wound.
Smith was transported by ambulance to JRMC in Pine Bluff where he was pronounced dead by a doctor in the emergency room at 6:38 p.m. Jefferson County Coroner Chad Kelley said Smith’s body was sent to the state crime lab for an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.
Police spokesman Officer Richard Wegner said officers at the scene spoke with Lecole Wilson, 20, and she was later interviewed by detectives at the police station. Following that interview, Wilson was arrested for the shooting death of Smith and was booked in at the Jefferson County Jail on probable cause of First Degree Murder. She will be in court for a probable cause hearing later this week.
A search warrant was executed on the house to process the crime scene. While doing this, a .22 caliber handgun believed to be the murder weapon was recovered, Wegner said.
Arrests have not been made in the recent slayings of Antonio Brown, 36, Ramon Buckhanan, 29, or Corey Pitts, 26.
The Wednesday rally was organized by the newly forming TenPoint Coalition, modeled after successful programs in Boston, Indianapolis and other cities that stresses education and violence reduction.
The Rev. Matt Mosler, pastor of New Life Church, said the homicides have happened because Satan “is grasping at his last straws” while the people of Pine Bluff are fighting a spiritual battle.
He compared Pine Bluff to the city of Jericho in the Bible where the people of Christ walked around the walls surrounding the city for seven days praying, and then go home.
“By the second day they began to feel a little optimism and on the seventh day, the walls came down,” Mosler said.
Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington, who joined the marchers as they made their way to the civic center, also spoke.
“No matter what happens, what things look like, what things sound like, what things feel like, you can trust the Lord,” she said.
Washington said during her campaign and afterward that she has spent a lot of time talking to neighborhood groups and associations like Neighborhood Watch “who are ready to step in and take control of their neighborhoods.”
She cited Deborah Davis, who supervises the city’s Neighborhood Watch programs, which are growing in members and attendance.
“People are saying they want to take their communities back from the thugs who are running their neighborhoods,” Washington said.
She also said that one of the ways to reduce violence, particularly among the younger generation, who have been both the victims and the suspects in a number of the city’s murders “is to keep them busy.”
Washington talked about the city’s Summer Youth Employment program, which was able to put a number of people to work this year but could not offer jobs to others because of a lack of funds.
She said St. Luke United Methodist Church in the Dollarway area gave her a check for $2,000 to help pay for the program in 2019 and called on other churches to make a donation so the city can employ more young people next year.
Organizers of the march set a noon meeting Wednesday to plan their next step in the campaign to reduce homicides.