Mourners of teens: ‘This has to stop'

A Sunday night vigil aimed at remembering two teenage brothers gunned down in west Charlotte last week became, literally, a cry for help from the community.

At least 200 mourners held up tiny white tea lights inside the Mission Church of the Lord Jesus Christ off West Boulevard. They wept and swayed while holding each other. The crowd, mostly black, lined the walls and packed a spare room full of fold-out chairs.

Kids, parents and senior citizens all listened and praised the message spoken over and over by organizers, relatives, pastors and others from across the city.

“There has been a call in this community,” said Willie Ratchford, executive director of the Mecklenburg County Human Relations Committee. “It's up to you. And it's up to me.”

Many of the victims of crimes and many of those committing the crimes look like the audience at the vigil, he preached.

“This has to stop,” he urged, his voice filling the church. Participants responded with shouts of “Amen” and “Thank you, Jesus.” Many wore T-shirts paying tribute to Josh Davis, 17, and his brother, Terry Long, 18. The teens were shot to death after an argument Monday that stemmed from a long-standing feud with a childhood friend.

Montrez Williams, 17, is accused of two counts of murder and remains in the Mecklenburg County Jail without bond.

On Sunday night, purple and red carnation crosses marked each side of the sidewalk where the brothers died in the Arbor Glen neighborhood. At the church a few blocks away, their friends sobbed and prayed for both teens, who relatives say had been in some trouble but had tried to improve their lives before they died.

Their mother, Andrea Long, cried so hard she wailed a few moments. But she was able to compose herself long enough to beg people to stand up, to speak out. She called on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe to step up to his promise of pairing communities with police to fight crime and prevent more kids like hers from getting killed.

“I'm ready to fight now,” she cried.