‘Enough is enough’: Faith community gathers for child shot at Decatur skating rink

The J.K. Smith Sr. Foundation band led the march from the Golden Glide skating rink to the intersection of Wesley Chapel Road and Snapfinger Road on Thursday.

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The J.K. Smith Sr. Foundation band led the march from the Golden Glide skating rink to the intersection of Wesley Chapel Road and Snapfinger Road on Thursday.

They stood on street corners chanting their message on bullhorns.

“Enough is enough” one shouted.

“Love is the answer,” another roared from the other side of the intersection.

Dozens of faith leaders, local activists and concerned parents took to the streets of Decatur on Thursday evening to march against gun violence in the wake of the April 9 shooting that left an 11-year-old boy critically injured outside the Golden Glide skating rink.

D’Mari Johnson continues to cling to life in a hospital after being shot in the back of the head by a stray bullet. He has spent days in a medically induced coma, and DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson said Thursday that D’Mari remains in critical condition.

Explore11-year-old critically injured in shooting at DeKalb skating rink

More than 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the skating rink along Wesley Chapel Road for a prayer vigil Thursday night. Ministers from across metro Atlanta rallied around the community, praying for the gun violence throughout the Atlanta area to be tamped down.

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Faith leaders and community members gather Thursday for a stop the violence march and prayer outside of the Golden Glide skating rink.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Faith leaders and community members gather Thursday for a stop the violence march and prayer outside of the Golden Glide skating rink.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Combined ShapeCaption
Faith leaders and community members gather Thursday for a stop the violence march and prayer outside of the Golden Glide skating rink.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

One state lawmaker said the shooting could even be a “turning point” in the fight against crime.

Some of the faith leaders prayed for Johnson’s full recovery, others prayed for his grieving family, and some prayed for the family of the 13-year-old boy arrested April 21 on charges tied to the shooting.

Explore13-year-old arrested in shooting at DeKalb skating rink

This month’s tragedy wasn’t the first time a teen was wounded near Golden Glide. In May 2019, a 14-year-old boy was shot near there after a fight broke out.

According to a DeKalb police report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, someone began shooting from a white car that pulled into the parking lot. The teenager told officers he was in front of a gas station across the street when the shots rang out. He and his friend began running and he didn’t realize he’d been shot in the leg until he reached his friend’s apartment.

With those recent incidents in mind, many on Thursday expressed exasperation with the type of violence that continues to afflict the community.

“We’re tired of the blood flowing through the streets,” said Quincy Carswell II, pastor of the Covenant Church in Decatur. “We’re tired of preaching over the caskets of our young. We’re tired of burying our young. God help us today.”

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Sareeca Huslcins prays as she listens to a faith leader's speech Thursday night.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Sareeca Huslcins prays as she listens to a faith leader's speech Thursday night.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Combined ShapeCaption
Sareeca Huslcins prays as she listens to a faith leader's speech Thursday night.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Cornerstone Ministries Church of Deliverance pastor Rodney Hurst reminded those on hand that it would take action beyond the prayers to effectively combat the violence.

“It’s going to take all of us, and it’s going to take an outpouring of God’s spirit,” he said. “We are going to have to take responsibility to instill the values and the morals back into our homes, back into our schools, back into our church and in our faith community.”

State Rep. Angela Moore, D-Decatur, who represents the House district where the shooting occurred, wiped away tears as she stepped to the microphone. She decried the controversial bill Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last week that will allow Georgia residents to carry concealed handguns without getting a license from the state.

Moore said she’s raised four generations of children near Golden Glide. She indicated the skating rink, which has been open for nearly 30 years, was once a rite of passage for kids in the neighborhood.

But it isn’t any longer, and she worried that one of the few recreation options for teens could be shut down.

Since the shooting, DeKalb officials have learned that Golden Glide was operating without a valid business license. An inspection last week resulted in two citations being issued, one for the lapsed license and another for a crumbling retaining wall that is considered a safety hazard.

The rink has continued to operate, but owner Robert Davis is scheduled to appear Tuesday before a magistrate court judge.

“We fought to keep this open because it’s the only thing in the area for them to do ... What do you think is going to happen now,” Moore said, noting last year’s sudden shutdown of the nearby South DeKalb YMCA.

“This is really a turning point because this is all we have for our kids out here,” Moore added. “Other than that, we keep them home because the other recreation places have been closed.”

ExploreCommunity leaders push back on closure of South DeKalb YMCA

Following the vigil, several of the attendees marched from the skating rink to Wesley Chapel Road’s busy intersection with Snapfinger Road. A marching band from the J.K. Smith Sr. Foundation guided the throng as they made the trek.

They stood on all four corners, surrounding the intersection for 11 minutes as they shouted anti-violence rallying cries.

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Vernell Smith holds a sign during the stop the violence vigil outside of the Golden Glide skating rink.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Vernell Smith holds a sign during the stop the violence vigil outside of the Golden Glide skating rink.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Combined ShapeCaption
Vernell Smith holds a sign during the stop the violence vigil outside of the Golden Glide skating rink.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Many motorists passing by honked their horns, while others waved as they sped past.

“This is part of how we move forward, by connecting with our residents, connecting with our business owners and folks along the Wesley Chapel (Road) corridor because enough is enough,” said Larry Johnson, who organized Thursday’s rally.