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'We are in a state of emergency,' Roanoke faith leaders plan vigil after latest shooting

Vigil scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Melrose Park

ROANOKE, Va. – Faith leaders in the Roanoke Valley are doubling down after yet another shooting over the weekend.

Neighbors said they heard 24-year-old Salonya Evans begging for her life before she was killed around 1:15 Sunday morning. Evans worked in healthcare and was a mother of one.

The faith leaders say the killing has to stop and they've announced 'Roanoke Prays,' a vigil scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Melrose Park to help it happen.

There have been a number of high profile violent incidents in Roanoke this year and they hope prayer can be the answer.

Flashing blue lights and crime scene tape have become the reality that many in Roanoke are scared will hit them next. ReFreshing Church Pastor Bishop Jamaal Jackson was Evan's pastor and personal friend.

"To have this link in our family ripped away from us, it just hurts so bad," Jackson said. "I'll always remember Solonya as a fun-loving person, she was just one of those people where your arms just automatically went around her and hers went around you."

Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd is heartbroken over the violence this year and is leading a faith based effort to curb violence. The group met informally Monday at the new Melrose Library to hash out details.

"We are in a state of emergency, we really are," White-Boyd said. "What we're trying to do today is come up with an event to magnify some of the positive things and give them hope and prayer."

Whatever they come up with will complement the city's new task force on gun violence led by Vice-Mayor Joe Cobb, although White-Boyd said her vision is separate from her position on council.

"We chant black lives matter but black lives also need to matter to black people, we certainly need to stop killing each other," White-Boyd said.

Evan's daughter turns 5 years old this week and Jackson wants justice for her and others. He's begging for Roanoke's no-snitch culture to come to an end and for people to help the police.

"Because until they have leads, until they have concrete information then all their searches are just going in a circle, we want to put an end to that circle and let justice be served," Jackson said.

A number of people also expressed concerns about gangs in violence and are afraid the city's gang issue is reverting back to like it was in the early 2000s. Police have yet to make an arrest in Evans' death, but the faith leaders said they have trust in the police to do their job.


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