Church organizes prayer vigil for carjacking victim

Community prays for 84-year-old Louis Reese, 2 officers injured in crime spree

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Oak Harbor Baptist Church held a prayer vigil Friday for the carjacking victim and the two officers injured in Wednesday's crime spree that began in Mayport and ended with a violent crash in East Arlington. 

Louis Reese, 84, has been a member of the church for decades and serves as a deacon. He remained in the intensive care unit Friday evening after police said a 26-year-old man robbed an internet cafe near Reese's home at gunpoint, abducted Reese to use his SUV as a getaway vehicle and struck two police officers -- one on foot and another in his cruiser -- before crashing to a concrete pole.

Family members said Reese, a Navy veteran, is fighting hard, but all of his ribs were broken and he has a broken leg, broken arm, broken spine, collapsed lung and a punctured lung. He underwent surgery Thursday.

Oak Harbor Baptist Church Pastor David Tarkington has visited Reese in the hospital and said everyone is praying for him to recover. 

"He is in critical condition and it will be a long journey for him to come back," Tarkington said Friday. "Through social media, we have a lot of connections with others around the country -- former members who were stationed here at Mayport years ago, now living in other parts of the country, have followed us on Facebook. They know Mr. Reese. They’re praying from their homes and their home churches throughout the country."

The pastor described Reese as a godly man and said he has been a part of the church for nearly 50 years. 

"I met him when we first came out here," Tarkington said. "Just heartbreaking to know what he’s going through right now."

The church opened its doors Friday to anyone who wanted to pray for the victims' recovery.

Those who attended Friday's vigil sang "Amazing Grace" for Reese, who they described as amazing.

"Great guy, great sense of humor," said Bill Gray, who attended the vigil. "He's the nicest guy you'd ever meet in the world.

Nancy Adams, who also attended the vigil, said Reese is a very giving man who helps the homeless.

"He's always looking out for other people," Adams said. 

Eddie Howard, Reese's neighbor, reiterated that sentiment, saying Reese's life has been devoted to helping others.

"My wife’s daughter died around this time last year. He arranged everything to have the ceremony here at the church out of the kindness of his heart," Howard said. "He's such a good guy."

At the vigil, Reese's family and friends also prayed for the full recovery of the injured officers.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Officer Josh Wiggins, 35, was struck by the stolen SUV while deploying stop sticks at Mayport Road and Wonderwood Drive, a few blocks north of the robbery scene. Minutes later, Officer Christopher Rouselle, 29, was injured at Kernan and Atlantic Boulevards when his cruiser was struck as he tried to stop the stolen SUV, which reached speeds of 100 mph, police said.

The president of the Fraternal Order of Police said both officers have a long road ahead of them to recover.

The church will be collecting funds for Reese and the injured officers. To donate, go online to www.oakharbor.church and choose the GIVE option. The funds will be distributed between Reese and the two officers, the church said.


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