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Citywide prayer service aims to reduce violence in Jacksonville

Pastors, city leaders, others gather for church service Saturday

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Pray for Jacksonville. That is the message going out to everyone throughout the city after a rash of deadly violence.

The violence prompted a group to organize a citywide prayer service that was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Evangel Temple Assembly of God at 5755 Ramona Blvd. in Jacksonville.

With arms stretched wide and hands raised, people in Jacksonville hope that God will answer their prayer for peace.

Garry Wiggins is the senior pastor at Evangel Temple. In the aftermath of several violent crimes in the city, he's called on other pastors and Christians to pray for peace.

"I just know that this is a good city and a great place to raise our families, but at some point, the community has to come together," Wiggins said.

As the prayers flowed, local community group MAD DADS and others walked through the same neighborhood where two mothers were found shot and killed. They hope someone will tell police who killed these women.

"We are here today to seek some type of closer for the families of these two young ladies that were brutally murdered on Aug. 22," said Donald Foye, president of MAD DADS.

Candles sit beside the women's photos, a reminder that their cases have not been solved.

August has been a deadly month in Jacksonville: The two moms -- Annie Miller and Deborah Ziegler -- were found shot and killed on the west side. Heidy Rivas Villanueva, 7, was shot by a stray bullet during a shooting. A teenager was shot and killed on a high school campus after a football game, and a mass shooting left three dead, including the shooter, and several others injured. There were also many other shooting deaths.

On Saturday morning, families walked side by side, with signs in their hands and hope in their hearts that September will be a more peaceful month. The walk reminded the community that someone died and witnesses need to come forward.

Jacksonville has had 87 homicides so far this year.


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