Pine Bluff community center reopens after parking lot homicide

Merrill Community Center reopens after shooting

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (KTHV) -- A focus on healing Thursday after a deadly shooting outside a Pine Bluff community center.

The Merrill Community Center shut down Wednesday after 18-year-old Jerry Pryor was fatally shot in the parking lot. The shooting happened after the teen had stopped by the center to visit with a mentor. Dozens of kids were inside the Merrill Community Center Wednesday afternoon when the shooting happened. Thursday those kids bravely returned.

But before children returned to the Merrill Community Center on Thursday, members of the faith community and counselors prayed for their healing.

"We ask that you would protect them, give them safety, but help us to understand what has happened Father," said one member.             

The mayor, pastors, and volunteers poured into the Merrill Center to help restore some peace. They wanted to show this community center will remain a safe haven for kids.

"One of the worst things you can imagine to happen.  It was so shocking," said one person. 

Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said, even though the shooting did not happen inside the center, she wanted to reassure parents and kids the center was still a safe place to come.

"We wanted to be here, we didn't know how many children would actually show up, but we wanted to be here because we thought counseling would be very important," Mayor Washington said.

Dozens of children and volunteers began showing up right after the center reopened. Volunteer Brent Cole showed up Thursday to provide comfort to the kids he knew.

"This is a home haven if you might say for the kids in this community, so this is vital in this community," he said.

The center was a big part of his youth and knows what it means to the neighborhood around it.

"A way to be a kid again.  Where you can just come and relax.  Where you may not have that environment available at home.  This should be a safe haven, a safe, secure place where kids can come and they learn here," Cole said.

Police are still looking for 18-year-old Alexis Reed in connection with the shooting. If you have any information on where she may be, call police.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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