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Hempstead community mourns, vows justice for slain girl

The Rev. Sedgwick V. Easley speaks about the

The Rev. Sedgwick V. Easley speaks about the fatal shooting of Dejah Joyner, 12, and calls for peace in the community during services Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, at Union Baptist Church on Clinton C. Boone St. in Hempstead Village. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A horrified Hempstead community sought solace in prayer Sunday while calling for justice in the slaying of 12-year-old Dejah Joyner.

The tragedy sparked outrage at the killing of a child in her own home, and residents said the shooting was the latest and perhaps most egregious example of the gun violence that has plagued Hempstead Village.

Sunday night, more than 600 people filled the Union Baptist Church, on Clinton C. Boone Place in Hempstead Village, where Dejah's family worships, for a "life celebration" for the girl.

There, the Rev. Sedgwick V. Easley said the shooting was a "call to action."

"When I got the word the other night, I got sick to my stomach. What's going to be different this time?" said Easley, the church's pastor. "The reality is we have to look at the core of what is going on in Hempstead. We have to say enough is enough."

Minutes later, Dejah's parents, seated in the front row surrounded by family, were asked to stand. Dejah's mother sobbed, leaning heavily on her husband.

"It's a senseless killing," said Alan Miles, 44, of Westbury, a family member who attends the church. "It's good the community came out tonight."

Dejah had been in her Dartmouth Street home in Hempstead Village on Friday afternoon when a bullet, shot from outside, pierced a front window and entered her brain, Nassau police said.

She died a day later, and no one has been arrested so far in the case.

The Hempstead school district said Sunday it is assembling a crisis team to help Dejah's classmates at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School cope with their grief.

The tragedy also was the focus at Antioch Baptist Church in the village, which held a prayer vigil earlier in the day.

"The entire community has lost this soul," the Rev. Joe Brown, of Faith Baptist Church, said at the gathering. "Even on this chilly day, we are in solidarity. We are not going to stand by and just let anybody shoot down our children and not hear from us."

That led some parishioners to remark on the need for restrictions on guns as a way to end the violence.

"We need more gun laws to stop guns from coming into our community," said Wilton Robinson, 56, of Roosevelt, who has attended the Antioch church for 19 years. "Those illegally armed should be prosecuted."

The Antioch church's pastor, Bishop Phillip Elliott, called the crime "heinous."

"It's not right, and we stand today . . . against it," Elliott said. "We have a wonderful village, [but] we have some very terrible people who come through our village."


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