Man shot outside Allen Temple, as church wins grant to combat violence
on November 17, 2010
A Richmond man was shot to death Tuesday in front of a cross outside East Oakland’s Allen Temple Baptist Church, the same day church officials announced that Allen Temple had been awarded a two-year grant to combat violence in the city.
The late morning killing was the 77th murder this year in Oakland, and marked the first time in the church’s 90-year history that an event this violent has occurred on its premises. “Leon Wilson did not die not vain,” Allen Temple senior pastor Dr. J Alfred Smith Jr. said Wednesday morning. “This event as tragic as it is, reinforces the need for us to provide programs in this community.”
Wilson had been studying for his GED at Allen Temple for four weeks when he received a phone call Tuesday in class. He was apparently lured outside where someone shot him, said Oakland Deputy Police Cheif Jeffrey Israel.
Israel joined Smith at the church Wednesday morning but did not provide further details beyond the location and the time of the shooting. No arrests have been made, Israel said, and investigators are still trying to establish a motive for the killing.
Later that morning, the California Endowment Award was officially presented to support the Leadership Institute at Allen Temple and the Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Institute for Social Justice Program.
“We hope this proposal will express the training needs for urban pastors and the complexity of the urban scene,” said Smith Sr., the longtime Allen Temple pastor after whom the Social Justice Program was named. “We are going to work with faith-based leaders who are dedicated clergy who would like to get beyond the stained-glass- window world into the world of the nasty now and now.”
This $430,592 two-year grant is meant to help 20 African American faith leaders work on health and violence problems in Oakland and Richmond, focusing particularly on men and boys of color.
“As the dead body of Leon Wilson lay at the gate of the church, it is evident that our work is not yet done,” said Dr. Barbara Bowman, the dean of the Allen Temple Leadership Institute. “There is still a problem, but a problem that we can fight together.”
Smith Jr. identified the victim as Leon Wilson, and said Tuesday’s tragedy has only inspired his church to work harder. Wilson was on parole, Smith Jr. said, and living in a transitional housing program. He had been taking a class at the church as part of a program to earn a high school equivalency degree so he could find a job.
“He was a pleasant young man and very anxious to learn,” said Verta Cotton, Wilson’s equivalency degree instructor. Cotton said a dozen students were engaged in class Tuesday morning when Wilson rose and went outside to respond to a cell phone call.
“The next minute we heard two loud gunshots,” Cotton said. One of her students went outside to check what happened, she said, and came back hysterical. “Then we all went outside,” Cotton said. “It was a grisly scene.” Most of her students didn’t return this morning, she said, because they were still distraught.
Lois Hill, a classmate who sat next to Wilson, said he was good person and excited about a job interview he went to last week. “He was tired of his life and ready to do something different,” Hill said. “It’s unbelievable that he’s here one day and taken the next.” Other classmates said they wondered what could caused someone to shoot Wilson to death on church property.
“He like someone else in history who fell at the foot of the cross outside,” said Smith Sr., “and it is our task to work with young men and young women who are endeavoring to improve their own lives.”
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