Stopping The Bloodshed on Mission Street, Montclair

Stopping The Bloodshed - Mission Street Montclair“We need to get the block on lock.”

That’s what a friend told Pastor Bernard Rawls this morning in the wake of another shooting on Mission Street.

Rawls lives on Mission Street with his wife and children. It’s also where his church, New Day Christian Ministries, is located. He was one of the first on the scene of the multiple shooting last night where one of the victims, Naji Love, 18, of Montclair, was seriously injured (this afternoon, police shared that Love is in stable condition).

“I heard six gun shots, rapid shots, and I checked to make sure that my 17-year-old son, who has an 11 o’clock curfew, was home. Then I called 911 and saw one individual laying there. His mother came out and was hysterical,” says Rawls, who has a law enforcement background and worked a police officer in Florida, tried to keep the victims calm and conscious until help arrived. “I told them “we’re here, we love you.”

The morning after the shooting, Rawls spoke about mobilizing the local churches and taking some kind of action, including a solidarity walk, but he added, “I don’t just want to walk, I want to give these kids options.”

Stopping The Violence On Montclair's Mission Street“The saddest thing for me is, you walk this block and there’s seven churches. You mean to tell me that someone can’t be open after hours where they can hang out? The worst thing that any person can ever fathom is to come outside on your front step and find your son lying there bleeding.”

Rawls says he doesn’t yet know what will be done, but knows it will take people coming together and crossing racial, gender, religious and economic boundaries because, “a bullet has no name, and I don’t want anyone else to be a victim.”

Mission Street has been Rawls’ home for the last five years; on the side of his house this morning, he noticed what he believes to be two bullet holes, information he shared with the police.

Taking stock of the shootings and crime on or near Mission Street over the years (the related shooting on Elmwood Ave., a shooting in June, a hit and run in July and a murder last year), Rawls wondered how so much crime can be concentrated on a tiny, one-way street and worried that people in the neighborhood feel nothing will ever change.

“The sad part is people aren’t shocked. Don’t get me wrong, they’re upset, but they’re more mad, and that’s my fear. Not mad at the police, but [feeling] what are we going to do about it.”

“People have said to me ‘you have the ability to leave Mission, so why don’t you leave Mission'” says Rawls of his street. “I tell them I can’t, because Mission needs us here.”

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  1. I’m sorry Pastor Rawls. I know your heart is in the right place, but this hardly strikes me as the kind of element that’s going to choose to hang out in an open church after hours.

  2. Somehow, Pastor Rawls’ well-intentioned but fatheaded suggestion reminds me of those scientist characters in 50’s sci-fi movies who actually think “we” can reason with those nasty aliens. And invariably get squashed. Does anyone remember the scene to that effect in “The Thing?”

    But I also suspect, not least because the same two people were shot at as last time, that this is a personal dispute gone way, way out of hand and control. And that the cops have thus probably known for a while who the shooter is. Their task at hand, his apprehension, would be greatly helped along if someone in the “community” (perhaps even one of Rawls’ flock) would just rat his whereabouts out.

  3. Agree with Cathar (!). Chances are, this is a personal thing, maybe a “domestic situation” involving the shooter and the two young intended victims. Not that it makes murder attempts any less frightening; but at least it wouldn’t be the kind of random or gang-related violence that would likely spill (further) out of control.

  4. The town as a whole needs to step up. Police, Council members, church leaders, business owners and homeowners. There is a Town Council Meeting tonight 205 Claremont Ave. @ 7pm. It might be a great opportunity to come together as a community and talk about the problem and some potential solutions. This is a great community with wonderful people and resources. I believe we can do something about the violence if we work together.

  5. From everything I’ve been reading about this story the bullet did have a name on it, I think two names for that matter.

  6. Redrum, you continue to offer up the suggestion of a coward. You must be pretty accustomed to being that guy “taking the easy way out”…one of the most undesirable qualities.

  7. I don’t know, will talk really stop gun shots by illegally obtained guns, hand guns, no doubt? In our culture, we pretty much know guns will not disappear. Occupying their time with alternative activities to shooting guns or hunting individuals is not likely to appeal to the shooters. So, is it to stop these shooters that we need a plan, or is it to stop general mayhem from shooting in Montclair that we want to address ourselves. In other words, what exactly is the problem? Define the deviation or abnormal behavior and maybe we can muster a solution. Maybe not. I would like some clarity on who is shooting whom and why. I would like to hear from the authorities who we hire and pay for public safety. Otherwise, I for one am staying clear of Mission St, and its environs. And god help the folks who live there.

  8. As far as community walks or vigilante patrols or various sorts, does anyone really think that is a good idea with what is known? If that idea was tongue in cheek, I missed the sarcasm.

  9. This seems like a gang or other targeted situation. The conscious survivors have to know who has been targeting them but will they tell the PD? Rarely do true innocents get targeted like this and to have it happen twice? The saddest thing about this repeat gun violence in the area is that the local residents on these streets who actually want safe streets don’t seem to be speaking loudly or calling for help to combat what is happening. Maybe they are but I don’t see that written anywhere except for counselor Baskerville’s call for a meeting. What am I missing? Where is the outcry away from this message board?

    I can see how it can be easy to turn a blind eye when you live in the estate section, upper Montclair, Irwin park or somewhere else in town. You think that Mission, elm and greenwood are bad areas and this might as well be another night in east orange. But this stuff is really close to home for us who want to continue to live in safe neighborhoods and these are kids not far removed or removed at all from being in our schools with our children.

    Hopefully the town wises up and puts a solid police presence in that area and these creative real estate developers/politicians begin to look to develop this area somehow to drive the violence out of town.

  10. Ummm… when we see any of you personally out on Mission Street bringing a better more positive solution THEN maybe you’ll earn the privilege of critiquing of Bernard Rawlins… posting opinions on blogs doesn’t change the world folks…

  11. I don’t know Pastor Bernard Rawls personally (nor Bernarnd Rawlins, but perhaps together they could make a difference geo)….but he must make his own path and I wish him well and hopes he is up to making a change in his way. Truthfully though….bring cc to NJ and instead of creating the wild west….it might bring an end to it. The police state is not the answer.


    The drug related violence around Mission Street is partially a full-circle payback from our own “liberal” passivity. It was created from the 40-year climate of political correctness and a continued unwillingness to see and confront our underlying social realities.

    This needs to change. A new, updated progressive-liberal operating philosophy is required that starts to turn the situation around. We need to stop seeing everyone today as a victim and instead set-up interventions that require individuals in need to become personally responsible. We need to provide a real path to help people pull themselves up. Many of those solutions are known. What’s missing is the will to begin to implement them.

    Today, everyone from the police, to the schools, to our community leaders have been pacified into accepting our current social reality – if only it stays relatively quiet. We essentially live with the blindness not seeing or trying to stop the madness around us, even when we know some of those problems are at crisis levels: youth unemployment, gang violence, drugs and and an increasing “moral” acceptance of teen pregnancy among parents and grandparents of low SES populations. There effectively remains government support still promoting teen pregnancy with on-going payments to single-parent families having more children. And this is despite the dead end cycle of dependency and despondency created as a result.

    Is it any wonder some living in what are clearly borderline ghetto conditions around Mission Street with little hope to break out — slip into a culture of drugs and violence? Is is any wonder that an entire chunk of our local population still just glides through school today knowing their long term prospects are slim?

    Conversely, look what happened before when the police previously stepped up more aggressive street confrontations and harassment against those with suspected criminal behavior in the 4th ward. They were accused of being racist and discriminatory for preemptive actions — hypocritically by some leaders now who will no doubt take the lead trying to turn the current level of violence around. But while more police action is certainly needed short-term at this time, it remains only a band-aid.

    We spend millions educationally in Montclair today on special ed and programs trying to close the racial achievement gap. Yet, we make few real demands to follow-up and do little or nothing with the parents of those kids that need the most help when their low SES children fall behind. Do we “require” these children to attend special tutoring help during lunch or after school to keep them off the streets longer and away from a potentially dis-functional setting? Do we make demands on their parents or care-givers with a real remediation plan for the family as a “condition” of receiving special tax-payer help. No, we are legally prevented and PC intimidated from this kind of real social demand and involvement — all the time spending millions of tax-payer dollars to just mitigate the end results — from prisons to antipoverty programs.

    Have you ever gone down to the Essex County government building and seen the resulting cycle of dependency and defeatism among those collecting their weekly checks? The continuing underlying social-worker message to these folks from the non-profit poverty pimp community and government workers being sustained is that everyone is a “victim”.

    And to an extent they still are. They are trapped in a cycle of program dependency with a lack of skills and family support to help them break out. Why? Partially because they’ve been allowed to go through our school systems with continued “passes” even though they didn’t really have the skills to cope. Again, it was our liberal political correctness over the years afraid to offend and really deal with the populations who weren’t cutting it. This is now paying us back big time. We passed the problems on rather than actually confront them.

    Yes, Montclair will no doubt deal in the short term stopping the violence and ultimately create safer 4th ward streets. But what are we going to do then about the underlying conditions that created the upsurge in violence?

    A new liberal-progressive operating philosophy is needed. From our churches to our schools, a shift in the underlying mind-set has to take place. We must focus on individual responsibility today, not victim-hood. However, this should be handled not the way conservatives and the right-wing want it — just throwing people to the wind. We need instead to provide real ladders and real programs for those willing to pull themselves up. At the same time we must make demands that they actually start doing it with penalties and downsides for individuals and families who do not at least try.

    There is an abundance of research on effective programs and policies that have actually generated results. They need to be sourced and implemented. The cycle has to be broken.

    When our underlying philosophy shifts from a PC, coddling mindset that treats everyone as a victim dealing with today’s social issues — some of those symptoms and resulting negative behaviors on the street – will start to change.

  13. How about a follow up report, Baristanet?

    Are the police still doing foot patrol on Mission, Elmwood, New, etc? Is the tower still up and attended?

    The police report doesn’t mention any street drug arrests in the area, so what’s the story there? How do the neighbors feel now, after a month of saturation policing?

    Just getting the trouble makers to either lay low or go elsewhere would seem like a big plus. Especially as school begins…

    [Does Montclair have a truant officer, and is there an active program to get under-17 kids into school during school hours…]

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