‘Ministry of presence’: Clergy and community rally against gun violence in Bronx’s 49th Precinct

Members of the 49th precinct community and clergy prayed for the family of Kelvin Sims, 29, who was shot and killed near the intersection of Sackett Avenue and Williamsbridge Road on June 9.
Photo Emily Swanson

On the evening of June 12, community and clergy members convened at the corner of Sackett Avenue and Williamsbridge Road for what Pastor Jay Gooding called a “ministry of presence.” 

The gathering was a forceful call to an end to gun violence — and a tribute to Kelvin Sims, a 29-year-old man who was shot and killed at that intersection on June 9. 

Members of Sims’ family sobbed as Gooding led the group in prayers of comfort and a denunciation of the kind of senseless gun violence that claimed Sims’ life just two blocks from his home. 

“When there’s violence in one community, there’s violence in all our communities,” said Gooding, who is president of the 49th Precinct Clergy Council and has been a pastor in the community for 27 years. 

Sims’ murder was the third homicide this year in the 49th Precinct, which covers Allerton, Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Van Nest, Eastchester Gardens and Pelham Gardens. The second occurred just last month when Daniel Lachapel was fatally shot near Allerton Avenue and White Plains Road.

“We can no longer stand by to the violence that’s plaguing our streets,” Gooding said through a megaphone, adding that “even though the heat might come (during the summer), cooler heads will prevail.”

A tribute to Sims with balloons and candles was placed near the intersection of Sackett Avenue and Williamsbridge Road on June 12, 2024. Photo Emily Swanson

Even the youngest community members are getting the message, according to state Sen. Nathalia Fernandez — but everyone must “say it louder than ever.” 

That same morning, Fernandez said she marched alongside fourth- and fifth-graders at P.S. 192 as they rallied against gun violence. 

“We need to be vigilant, we need to talk with our neighbors, we need to know what’s going on and encourage better actions, encourage better solutions,” she said. 

But Norman, a local resident who attended the rally, told the Bronx Times that many problems in the community — including gun violence — could be improved with new elected officials.

“Most of them talk about it, but they don’t be about it,” said Norman, who declined to give his full name.

He said he hoped the rally would help “pull up the curtain” to the “incompetence of the administration.” He said the city is allowing people to get away with murder and is also in “crisis” in terms of unemployment, homelessness and migrants.

“If we don’t get our hands around it now, this time next year, this city’s going to hell in a handbasket,” said Norman. 

Gooding told the Bronx Times that in order to see change, youth in the community — and the NYPD — both must receive more resources.

“I know people sometimes say ‘defund the police,’ but we need our police in our communities,” he said. 

The NYPD released surveillance footage of two male suspects in Sims’ murder.

Anyone with information can submit confidential tips online at crimestoppers.nypd.org or via phone at 800-577-TIPS (888-57-PISTA for Spanish).

Reach Emily Swanson at eswanson@schnepsmedia.com or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes