“I pray for my kids every day as I walk out that door and when they walk out that door,” she told more than 500 people gathered for a summit and candlelight vigil on youth violence at the same church where police said her son and another man shot each other to death. “I never knew that that phone call I got on June 7 would be the last time speaking with my son.”
Carlos Henderson, 19, was among mourners at a funeral for slaying victim Ryan Devon Guider, who was shot to death on May 26, when violence erupted in the parking lot of the Stone Mountain church. Guider, also 19 years old, was his childhood friend.
The June 20 event was attended by more than 500 people – church members; Henderson’s family and friends; DeKalb public officials including CEO Burrell Ellis, who is in the final months of his first four-year term and faces two opponents in his re-election bid; interfaith leaders; and young people and their parents.
DeKalb Public Safety Director William Miller said Henderson and 28-year-old Delmetrius Heard shot and killed each other. A 12-year-old girl and another man also were injured in the shooting, but their injuries are not life-threatening.
The three men were from Decatur.
Police say Marcus D. Ventress, who is the only suspect in Guider’s death, is still on the run.
Witnesses at the funeral shootings told investigators that friends of Guider were upset that Ventress’ friends attended the funeral.
Miller said investigators are looking for gang ties after Victory’s pastor, the Rev. Kenneth Samuel, said he saw colorful bandanas among the crowd at the funeral.
Tracey Henderson said Wednesday that her son was not a gang member. “This was not an act of gang activity,” she said.
Ellis, who co-hosted the summit, told the audience that it’s time to begin to find solutions to address the causes of violence and not simply “treat the symptoms.”
“We must address the sense of hopelessness and feelings of helplessness to convince our young people that this destructive way isn’t the only way to solve problems,” he said.
Other speakers at the summit included DeKalb District Attorney Robert James; Trenny Stovall, director of DeKalb Child Advocacy; the Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin, Morehouse College president; and the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Miller told the young people that it takes more courage to end disputes nonviolently.
“You don’t have to be afraid or think you’re a coward to walk away from a violent confrontation,” he said. “It takes more courage to walk away.”
Henderson, who has two other sons – Harrison Benton, 22, and Robert Henderson, 16 – pleaded with youth who carry guns to give them to police. She also told parents to know their child’s whereabouts.
“Be accountable of their friends,” she said. “Know who they are talking to and know who they are chatting with on Facebook.”