Our collective guts wrenched Saturday when news broke about the shooting death of 19-year-old Zaria Johnson. The details are brutal.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Pine Bluff Police Officer Donald Griffin was at West 17th Avenue and Cherry Street when he was flagged down about a shooting at West 17th Avenue and Elm Street. In his report, Griffin said that when he arrived, he saw Johnson face down on the ground and could tell she had been shot several times. He said he asked Johnson to “stay with me,” and told her help was on the way. He reported that Johnson told him “OK” and took a deep breath. She died a short time later.
Jalin Reynolds, 19, is currently behind bars on a capital murder charge in connection with the slaying. According to witnesses, Johnson ran up and struck Reynolds in the face during an altercation. Reynolds then went to his car, grabbed a rifle and fired one shot in the air before firing at Johnson, who fell to the ground.
Reynolds then stood over her and continued to shoot her multiple times before getting back in his vehicle and leaving the scene, according to the affidavit. At Tuesday’s Coffee with the Chiefs event, the Rev. Jesse Turner, chairman of the Faith Community Coalition of the Pine Bluff Ministerial Alliance, said, “as clergy, God has given us the authority to change the moral trajectory of our community. A 62 percent increase in homicides is unacceptable, and for a victim to be shot 16 times morally reprehensible.”
Turner said this is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but “one which reveals the moral character of our city.”
He said the coalition will address the issue at their next meeting, which is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, at St. Luke United Methodist Church in the Dollarway area. We’ll be there, Rev. Turner.
“We shall address this issue as we collaborate with Mayor (Shirley) Washington to create an environment within our city for families and businesses to locate, remain and grow here,” Turner said.
Turner said the strategy is “more than a march but dialog which puts in place clear ideas to reduce homicides in Pine Bluff.”
There have been 16 homicides in our fair city so far this year, although overall crime is down. Sixteen homicides. That’s six more than were reported all of last year. Clearly, many in our city need help. But what can be done? We stand with Rev. Turner and his ambitious plans to create “clear ideas to reduce homicides.” But what exactly is the answer? Perhaps together we can find out.
Is it better education? Is it a better home life for kids? Is it because of drugs? We feel that it’s a combination of many things, including these. Our prayers are with all of the victims’ families in their time of mourning. And we are prepared to do whatever we can to help stop the killing.