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Dozens march in Lynchburg hoping for end to recent string of homicides

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LYNCHBURG, Va. – Prayer filled a backyard on Madison Street in Lynchburg Friday evening. This is not only the site of prayer but the site of a recent shooting that left 33-year-old Jamale Pannell dead. The deadly shooting marked the third homicide in the city this year, and that's why these people are praying.

"If our young men and women that are hanging out on the street corners can see us being good citizens and getting along with each other and coming next to each other during hard times, I think it's important," said James Mashburn, a Lynchburg resident.

Pastor Dorothy Smith planned the prayer event to encourage change, but also to bridge the gap between residents and law enforcement. After meeting on Madison Street, Dorothy and her new friends, including Lynchburg police officers, marched to the Police Department to ask questions and have more conversation about the state of crime in the city.

"The police has come together and emerged with us in the community. They want to show the people they're not the bad guys, but they're here for our protection," said Smith, pastor of YES Ministries.

During the event, officers acknowledged the recent violence in the city and said without the help of the community, especially witnesses, officers simply cannot solve everything. 

"At the end of the day, we want the community to be safe just like they do and we do that the best when we collaborate with them," said Deputy Chief Ryan Zuidema with Lynchburg Police Department.

Officers say help from witnesses in the community actually helped lead them to the suspect in Pannel's death. 18-year-old Rodney Spinner was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

On average, Lynchburg sees about three or four homicides a year.