Community Surrounds Family during Prayer Vigil

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Meridian, Miss. Jerome and Felicia Dean moved into their new home on 33rd Avenue from Western Gardens about a year ago, in an effort to get their family away from violence. The home built through Habitat for Humanity was meant to be a safe place for the Dean family to raise their children. But recently violence has even turned on their new home as a series of drive-by shootings has risked their safety and struck fear in their lives.

"I'm just getting tired of the shooting, two nights in a row," said Felicia Dean. "The first time was February 8th and then it just happened last week through my front door. Me and my kids were in there; my baby was in the living room, and we had to hit the floor."

To combat these recent attacks on the family home, Habitat for Humanity held a prayer vigil to pray over the family and their home, that they may stay protected.

Several members of the community, as well as city officials were on hand to take part in the event.

Habitat executive director Fonda Rush sees it as one step in stopping the violence that has entered the city.

"There are young people out there that are with these guns and we have to look at them too and try to save them, not just this family, but how can we help our community?" said Rush. "This is our first step; this is Habitat's first step of stepping out of our bounds of just building homes or repairing homes. We are about the community."

The shootings have not only affected this family, but the entire city of Meridian as a whole. One local man wants to put a stop to it by creating a fund as reward money for any information into who is doing all these shootings.

"We want to put some serious money together. We are going to run it through Crimestoppers with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department," said fund contributor Sam Long. "We need people that want to help. Send $5, $10, $25. It doesn't matter what you send. We want to raise a fund because we've got to take our city back in Meridian."

The hope is that the funds will go towards helping stop violence in the city.

Officers have responded to seven drive-by shootings since the evening of Mar. 14. The latest happened about 11:40 p.m. Sunday on 42nd Street. Police were called to the 3800 block where someone was shooting into a home.

Others included early Saturday morning when police responded to shots fired into a vehicle on 25th Avenue, just after 4 a.m.

Late Friday night, police responded to shots fired into a home and into a vehicle on 8th Avenue and later on Highland Avenue.

If you have information on any of these shootings-- call Crimestoppers at 601-485-1860 or 1-855-485-TIPS(8477).