ELKHART — Amidst the holidays, a neighborhood in the south side of Elkhart gathered to pray for the victim of the most recent violent incident in the city and to discuss what they can do to avoid more tragedies.
Devonte J. Patrick, 18, was pronounced dead at Elkhart General Hospital after he was shot in the 1300 block of Prairie Street on Monday, Dec. 23.
Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart organized a vigil that took place after their Christmas Eve Service Tuesday evening, Dec. 24. Church members and others in the community who wanted to join sang and prayed during the service.
Shortly before 6 p.m., everyone in attendance grabbed a candle and went outside to the church’s parking lot, where Patrick was shot. They formed a circle, prayed, had a moment of silence and sang “Silent Night.”
“We know little about the circumstances about his death, but this we know for certain: (Patrick’s) death is an incalculable loss for family, friends and the people of Elkhart,” Nelson Kraybill, lead pastor at Prairie Street Mennonite Church, said. “This much is certain: Out there is another person or persons, perpetrators of this evil, who are in deep trouble, who are in a dankness of their own tonight.”
Kraybill said he organized the vigil Monday evening because he didn’t think anyone in the community should ignore the fact that a shooting happened just outside the church.
“Devonte’s death will not go unremembered,” he said, addressing the circle. “This will be an occasion when people from all across spectrums of this city and say ‘This is enough, we protest this kind of violence in our streets and we confess our part in silence in not addressing some of the social issues of this city that feed into this kind of violence.”
News about the vigil spread through the community and on social media, bringing many who knew Patrick to the vigil.
Anthony Riley, Patrick’s second cousin, said many people in the community knew Patrick as a well-rounded, outgoing young man, who had recently graduated from high school and was hoping to start college in January. Patrick had recently moved to Grand Rapids, Mich. with his brother, and was back in Elkhart to celebrate the holidays with the rest of his family.
Riley said it’s been a tough year for the family. Riley’s grandfather died two days before Thanksgiving. However, Riley said he was glad to see many familiar faces Tuesday night, in spite of the circumstances that had brought them together.
“It’s good to see the community here, a lot of people we know growing up. I’m always going to remember (Patrick.) He like one of my kids.”
Kraybill said several members of the clergy have already been talking about who they can address some of the social issues in the neighborhood.”
“We will be in conversation with each other. We can’t fix the problem, but we can start taking some steps in the right direction.”