Pastor’s passing becomes call to action to stop youth violence

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 10:48 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Two teenagers have been arrested in the murder of a Mid-South pastor. Memphis Police say Reverend Autura Eason-Williams was shot in her driveway in Whitehaven on Monday, July 18, as the teens stole her car. And MPD said a 15-year-old pulled the trigger.

Hearts are broken across the Mid-South with this news, broken over the loss of a beloved pastor, and shattered at the thought of more young people being swept up in the growing trend of deadly youth violence.

“Incidents like these should make everyone have sleepless nights,” said Memphis Police Chief CJ Davis during a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Raines police precinct, “it should make everyone have feelings of hurt and pain.”

It’s not every day the city’s top cop holds a press briefing about a murder, but this day was very different. Clergy and community activists joined police and politicians to mourn the death of Rev. Eason-Williams. MPD charged a 15-year-old with first-degree murder, the irony of that not lost on former MPD Lt. Colonel James Kirkwood. He worked with Eason-Williams in Hickory Hill where she ministered at Capleville Methodist Church.

“She was awesome,” said Kirkwood, “and her strongest advocation was for young people. She fought for young people. It was so important that young people have a chance.”Eason-Williams started out as a youth pastor in South Memphis. She’d just gotten her doctorate and was beginning her second year as the district superintendent of the United Methodist Church in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.

“We’re hurting,” said Rev. Martin McCain of Grace United Methodist Church, “she stopped by my church to let me know she had moved into Whitehaven and I was excited about that. We were all excited about her just continuing her ministry. We continue to ask for your prayers, and we encourage every person to be safe.”

Tennessee State Representative and House Minority Leader Karen Camper is Eason-Williams’ cousin. Whitehaven is her district. She was visibly shaken.

”We do need to work together to end this senseless violence that’s happening in our community way too much, and not just here in Whitehaven, but in our city, period,” she said.

The pastor’s passing a call to action to prevent the escalating youth violence that’s traumatizing the city and its residents.

“Know that the members of this community will be praying,” said Memphis City Councilwoman Patrice Robinson, “We’ll be watching. We’ll be telling. And we will be reinforcing what we need to do in our community.”

MPD says the teens were apprehended after carjacking another woman at gunpoint overnight in Cordova.

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