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COMBATING GUN VIOLENCE LEFT: San Bernardino Police Captain Nelson Carrington shakes hands with the sister of Denzel Paulk, who was killed by gun violence in February. RIGHT: Father Manny Cardoza, Pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish, San Bernardino, speaks at the March 10 meeting, which was hosted by Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC). 

Father Manuel Cardoza and Deacon Nelson Glass joined other San Bernardino area faith leaders in a March 10 meeting to address the growing problem of gun violence in the City.

The meeting was sponsored by Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), a faith-based nonprofit community action organization that serves San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. ICUC does advocacy work on many local issues related to social justice including immigration, housing, criminal justice reform, education and health care.

At the meeting, local faith and political leaders spoke out against the problem and discussed next steps to reduce violence in San Bernardino.

Minister Kesha McGee, a local pastor, shared a powerful testimony of her godson, Denzel Paulk, who lost his life to gun violence this February. Paulk’s sister was also there to share her story in the hopes of inspiring attendees to take action against the problem.

Paulk struggled with mental health disorders, including schizo-affective disorder, dissociative identity disorder and PTSD, and became involved with gangs. He was ultimately killed by someone from his gang during an altercation.

McGee said after Paulk was shot, a registered nurse who happened to be nearby assisted to apply pressure on the wound, but was then told by police to leave, who then did not give Paulk any medical assistance. “Police were standing around, about six of them, around his body. I saw no one trying to help him, I saw no one saying, ‘Are you ok?’ I saw no one telling him ‘It’s going to be all right.’ They were just standing there,” she said.

Further, McGee told listeners how Paulk’s family were not even told what hospital he was taken to and that they had to wait for six hours outside the hospital not even knowing if he was in that facility or not. Overall, she shared that the response they got from police and medical professionals made an already terrible situation even worse.

“The purpose of this meeting today is not to place blame on anybody, not to point fingers, but it’s for understanding, education and hopefully some change,” said McGee.

Other community members shared their thoughts and ideas for change, including a local doctor, the San Bernardino Police Captain Nelson Carrington, San Bernardino City Council Members Damon L. Alexander and Kimberly Calvin, San Bernardino mayoral candidate Dr. Treasure Ortiz and several faith leaders and community members.

Deacon Glass, currently assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish, Colton, spoke up to emphasize the importance of everyone taking action for change. “James said in Scripture that faith without action is not faith. We need to act with our faith, with our prayer ... the only way we are going to change things is through action,” he said.

“It’s tough to fight crime in the city. I know our police department is down in personnel ... I know we need programs to help kids, to bring them in a more positive direction ... we all need to work towards that. Every department, every church, every school, every citizen, every non-citizen, we all need to work towards a better city, and it’s only through action,” Glass added.

Fr. Cardoza, Pastor of Our Lady of Hope, San Bernardino, led a prayer and also spoke, saying that hearing the real-life stories and experiences is what impacts him the most. “We can get angry, there’s such a thing as righteous anger, but we need to take action,” said Fr. Cardoza, adding that we should work for change as well as trust in God.

“We place everything in God’s hands. The Lord Jesus, he knew suffering, he knew misery, he knew what that was like,” added Fr. Cardoza.