LAS VEGAS — For decades, a small group of people, including a church leader, have been asking why a church in a small rural town in Colorado that was once known as the home of the Black Panthers had not yet been rebuilt.
When a gunman opened fire on a Bible study at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Monday, killing 26 people and wounding scores more, the church community was stunned.
It is a community that for decades has been struggling to recover from the impact of a devastating earthquake in 2005 that flattened homes and destroyed dozens of buildings.
The church’s pastor, Rev. David Hall, who had been vocal about the need for a new church, was not one of the first to call for an investigation.
But after learning about the mass shooting and the church’s history of racial segregation, Hall decided to go public with what he called a “revenge of the black church” against the man who had caused the destruction of the church.
A memorial to victims of the shooting is seen on a fence at the church in Sutherland Springs, Colo., on Dec. 6, 2017.
The church had become a symbol of defiance against racism in America.
After meeting with the local leaders, Hall wrote a letter to Gov.
John Hickenlooper (D) on Monday night.
The letter urged him to act and to immediately address the racial disparity in policing.
“There’s a reason why I’m not in this office right now, and that’s because you, sir, are not listening to us,” Hall said in the letter, which was published on Twitter and shared on Facebook.
“You do not want to listen to us, you want to protect white supremacy,” Hall added, referring to President Donald Trump.
Hickenloop also issued a statement on the shooting on Tuesday night.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives, and the families of the victims.
We will continue to monitor the situation,” Hickenlop said.
“The Colorado state troopers are working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office to ensure the safety of our citizens.”
Hickenlops statement included a list of the actions the governor had taken in response to the shooting, including signing an executive order creating a task force to address the effects of racism on law enforcement.
The statement did not address whether the governor was considering taking action against the gunman, whom authorities say was motivated by anti-police sentiment.
State Rep. Jared Wyland (D), the House speaker, said he was “disturbed” by the letter and that it was “outrageous that the governor would not take action on the issue.”
“We have a lot of issues to deal with and I don’t think we should be punishing the perpetrator for something that’s a political statement,” Wyland said.
Wyland added that the letter did not include a list for how the governor could take action.
“I think he’s going to have to ask them,” Wylands said of the sheriff.
The governor has not responded to a request for comment.
After news broke that a suspect was dead, Wyland released a statement.
The first thing he did was make a statement about it.
I’m disturbed that we did not have the opportunity to do that,” Wylanders said.
The second thing he said is he’s asking the governor to look into the issue.
We are going to hold a meeting and make sure that we’re going to address it.”
Wylands also said that his office was monitoring the situation.
“We will not be complacent.
We’re going out there and making sure we’re doing everything we can to prevent it from happening again,” he said.”
And we’re also going to continue to talk to the sheriff’s office, the city, the state and our congressional delegation,” Wyands statement said.