FRESNO, CA (April 20, 2017) – Rather than hold their regular Bible study Tuesday night, members of On Ramps Covenant Church sang and prayed while they marched with other local residents from the church to the nearby Catholic Charities building where a gunman shot two of his three victims during a killing rampage on Monday.
A 39-year-old African American man, Kori Ali Muhammad, has been arrested. Although he shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) in Arabic when he was arrested, police say the crime was motivated by racial hatred rather than religion. Muhammad told police he shot the victims because they were white.
On Ramps co-pastor Rici Skei said, “There are so many layers to what happened, and we are trying to respond in a way that is respectful but also truth-telling. There’s been so much misinformation.”
She hoped the march would help promote reconciliation as well as awareness of mental health issues, which she said played a key role in the tragedy. Muhammad had been hospitalized at least twice to treat paranoia and psychosis.
“Mental illness been a taboo subject and we need to start talking about this as a black community and as a church community,” said Skei, who is African American.
The Catholic Charities building is near the church, and Skei said the police tape was visible from her office window. The church is located in a downtown area once known as the Devil’s Triangle due to the violence in the neighborhood. Church members say the area has begun to rebound. (See On Ramps for a previous story on the church’s ministry.)
Ministers in the downtown area are meeting today to pray along the path the gunman walked when he shot his victims. “We want to show what it looks like when the community comes together and that there is hope,” Skei said.
A local TV station covered the march and interviewed several church members, including retired Covenant missionary David Mark, who is misidentified in the clip.