Memorial to the Lost

Memorial to the Lost
at Chester Eastside Ministries

Sunday, August 31, 2014

From today's Murder Site Witness, at the corner of 8th and Welsh

It started to rain as we began today's Murder Site Witness, so 30 or so of us huddled under the awning in front of Ministries of Heaven out of the rain.  Among the mourners were the family of Erick Nieves, killed earlier this month, along with Movita Johnson-Harrell and her husband Yancy, (picture below) whose son was killed in 2011.
We are here today to mourn three men shot dead August 10th:

·         Erick Nieves, 36, killed on Rose Street

·         Marquis Tillery, 23, of Trainer, killed here where we stand

·         A third victim, aged 47,  whose name has not been made public, at the corner of Frank Young Ave. and Union St.

Their deaths bring to 20 the number of murders here in Chester – almost all men struck down in their youth – men who could have graduated from school, worked for their communities, married, raised children, celebrated with their extended family, comforted and cared for their parents as they aged.  Instead, they join the sad host of lives cut short by gun violence.

They leave behind them families burdened by grief, families now lacking a father / son / brother / nephew.  Families that will remember their deaths, year in and year out.

We are here today to mourn their deaths, and to resolve to fight the plague of illegal guns to the streets of Chester.  We are here to denounce the sales to straw buyers – that put guns in the hands of people who because mental illness, domestic abuse, past felonies, or sheer youth – should never have held these guns in the first place. 

We pray God to comfort the grieving families, to shelter the souls of Eric, Marquis, and the third man whose name we don’t know, under his wings.  We pray God to give us strength to combat this plague of murderous gun violence, and please join with me to say, AMEN.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chester woman convicted of straw purchases from Miller's sporting goods

By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times
Posted: |

UPDATE: A jury Wednesday convicted a 22-year-old Chester woman in the straw gun purchase of a gun for her ex-boyfriend.

Staci Dawson, 22, was convicted of the straw purchase of two handguns for a convicted felon. She was found guilty on charges of conspiracy, making false reports to law enforcement and illegally selling or transferring firearms to another person, which carries a mandatory five-year mandatory minimum sentence under the Brad Fox Law enacted in early 2013.

Dawson was the first person charged in Delaware County under the new law, named for a Montgomery County police officer who was gunned down on duty by a suspect who obtained his gun through a straw purchase.

Dawson’s bail was revoked. Her sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 3 before Judge James Bradley.

Deputy District Attorney George Dawson prosecuted the case.

Dawson had been acquitted following a previous trial on charges of tampering with evidence and making false statements in the purchase of a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun and a Kel-Tec 9 mm pistol from a Lower Chichester sporting goods store in February 2013.

to read more, click here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

In today's Delco times -- A Terrible Year

By Patti Mengers, Delaware County Daily Times
Posted: |


Nearly two months ago, members of the Heeding God’s Call Chester/Delaware County Chapter launched their “T-shirt Memorial to the Lost” for the victims of gun violence outside Chester Eastside Ministries on the 400 block of East Ninth Street.

At the time they placed more than 140 T-shirts, each bearing the name of someone who had died from gun violence in Delaware County between 2009 and last April, on the lawn in tombstone fashion. Since June 22, nine more people have been shot to death in Delaware County.

Sunday afternoon, Fran Stier coordinated the installation of the T-shirt memorial on the front lawn of Ohev Shalom Synagogue at the intersection of routes 320 and 252 in Nether Providence where she has been a member for about 30 years.

“It brings home the human cost of gun violence in our midst,” said Stier.

Heeding God’s Call is struggling to keep up with the number of shirts needed to reflect the carnage which law enforcement officials have blamed on the illegal drug trade, turf wars and domestic violence, among other motives.

“We’re not fully current,” said Stier on Sunday afternoon before members of the anti-gun violence group began placing 144 t-shirts on the synagogue’s front lawn. “This has been a terrible year.”

Between Jan. 10 and Aug. 11, there have been 35 homicides in Delaware County, 25 due to gun violence. Twenty of those homicides have been in Chester, 19 due to gun violence. Since July 24 alone there have been eight shooting deaths in Delaware County -- five in Chester and one each in Yeadon, Ridley Township and Darby Borough .

“In numbers, they’re devastating to the community,” noted Stier.

To read more, click here

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Memorial to the Lost at Ohev Shalom

We had a wonderful turnout to put up the Memorial to the Lost on Ohev Shalom's lawn.  30 x 2 hands truly made light work -- the Memorial was up in less than an hour (pictures below).

Below is one of the dedication speeches.


The Chester-Delco Chapter of Heeding God’s Call worked as a team on this memorial, getting the information, getting the t-shirts, persuading Home Depot to give us good prices on the rebar and pvc pipe (and cut it up for free), finding t-shirts we could afford to buy in bulk.  Sister Jean, the nuns at the Mother House, Pastor Anita wrote the names, dates of death and age at death on each t-shirt, praying, sometimes crying as they wrote.

144 t-shirts on pvc stands, each one a life cut short by gun violence.  Many are young men, many are African-American, about 2/3 from the City of Chester.  Each one is someone’s child, someone’s sister or brother, someone’s niece or nephew.  Their death leaves a burden of grief on family members that most of us can’t imagine – and few services are available to the families of victims.

Last year, 3 members of the Chester Children’s chorus lost brothers to gun violence.  John Alston wrote a song in their memory for the chorus to sing-- we posted a copy below on our blog.  Listening to the chorus sing about their grief is one way to begin to understand the toll on the community from the loss of these young lives.

Last year, Chester a city of 34,000, saw 22 homicides, of which 5 were solved.  The rest of Delaware County (with about 530,000 population), saw 11 homicides, 10 of them solved.   So in Chester, not only do families of victims suffer the grief of children lost to homicide – overwhelmingly gun violence – but all too often they lack even the small comfort of seeing justice done, and seeing government work as it should.

We can’t just stand by and watch this happen.  Even if we’re a small group of people, with limited resources, and limited strength.

Lev 19:16 reads (in Hebrew) Lo t’amod al dam re’echa – literally, do not stand on your neighbors blood.  The Rabbis of the Talmud interpreted this to say:  If you know someone is in danger, you need to try hard to rescue that person. You can’t just stand there.  The verse says “your neighbor’s blood”, not “your brother’s blood” to teach us the obligation applies to people in danger in all communities, not just our own.

Straw purchases put guns into the hands of felons, domestic abusers, kids too young to know what they’re doing.  Reducing straw purchases won’t stop all homicides – no one thing will.  

But the Rabbis of the Talmud teach us that even when it is not given to us to complete an important work, we are still not free to stop.  We need to do as much as we can.