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La Jollans mourn South Carolina shooting victims of Emanuel A.M.E. Church

Disgust. Anger. Sorrow. More than 30 people gathered at Prince Chapel by the Sea African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in La Jolla Friday evening, June 19, to process those feelings, brought on by the mass shooting that occurred just days earlier at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Jim Tapscott and wife, Francis, said their property manager’s aunt, Myra Thompson, was one of the nine people killed June 17 when 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire during a Bible study at the predominately African-American church — his actions reportedly motivated by racial hatred.

“She was telling me all about it, so I hugged her and prayed with her,” Jim Tapscott said. “As bad as it was, to know someone who was directly affected by it, that’s a hard thing.”

Also in attendance were representatives from the Congregational Church of La Jolla, St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, La Jolla Christian Fellowship and Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, whose president, Rebecca Morales, said she felt the shooting is indicative of a malaise infecting the nation’s youth. “People are just so lost to do something like this,” she said. “Look at all the kids who are signing up for ISIS. But why? … It’s just so sad.”

Rancho Peñasquitos resident Jeaniqua Francis, who learned about the service and Prince Chapel online, said an undercurrent that feeds such racially-motivated violence can be found in the nation’s political discourse.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “When are we as a nation going to stand up to these issues and acknowledge them, at the very least, so we can start to heal?” she asked.

Pastor Adam Stadtmiller of La Jolla Christian Fellowship said he believes a culture of violence-as-entertainment has caused many to lose touch with reality. “We cry out about the things we see in the streets, but then we go home and entertain ourselves with them at night,” he said. “We would see what happened at this A.M.E. church on TV … as an episode of ‘CSI’ … eat popcorn and go to bed,” he said. “We need to begin to take responsibility for that.”

Prince Chapel’s Rev. Chuck Norris pointed to a diminishing sense of community.

“I tell people, ‘We live in neighborhoods for the most part now, where we used to live in communities. If somebody saw you misbehaving as a child, they threatened to tell on you. After that, they might take matters into their own hands and chastise you or … twist you by the ear. That’s a community — people who have a common goal and common beliefs that are all working toward something,” he said, asking God to heal the culture of hate “that altered and adjusted and radicalized Roof’s mind.

“He did not raise himself,” Norris said.

During prayer, one man — speaking for both himself and, ostensibly, a nation — sought forgiveness for not doing more in his own backyard to reach out to people he doesn’t know, and who are different from himself, praying it would not take another national tragedy to learn this lesson.

More information about Prince Chapel A.M.E. Church at princechapelame.org