CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. — After two shootings in two days this week that left two teenagers injured and a 23-year-old woman dead, community members gathered on Thursday to call for unity and an end to violence.
Hemingway Memorial AME Church held a march and rally during the evening before stopping at the gas station off Walker Mill Road where a shooting claimed the life of 23-year-old Phajia Hutchinson on Tuesday.
The shooting was caught on surveillance camera and showed the moments when people sprinted to safety and gunfire erupted.
Hutchinson was shot as she sat on the passenger side of a car parked outside the gas station convenience store while two children sat in the backseat.
A day later, a teenager was injured in a shooting that took place inside the Central Gardens apartment complex off Cindy Lane in Capitol Heights.
Neighbors described seeing children gathered around an ice cream truck when shots were fired, which sent them running for cover.
With both shootings still under investigation and officers hoping to catch whoever could be responsible, some members of the community have vowed to try and make a change.
Keisha Chase, who helps oversee the 150-member Breaking Barriers community group in Prince George's County, told WUSA9 on Thursday that she plans to hold more prayer meetings while also heading to neighborhoods impacted by crime to talk to others and learn more about the issues they experience.
"It’s something that we, as a community, have to band together," she said. "(The violence) has to stop. It’s becoming too much of an epidemic.”
Chase noted how she is a mother and how she sometimes worries about the safety of her daughter. Following the two shootings in Capitol Heights this week, she knew many other families were worried about crime.
"To see so many mothers having this be a normal thing is horrible," Chase said. "I want to know that my child is safe. Whether she’s going to the store or going to work or getting ice cream. It’s unfortunate that my heart has to continuously be in my stomach until my child gets back to me.”
Chase said Breaking Barriers will team up with another community group, the Black Rhythm Coalition, to host a prayer gathering this weekend.
Over the next few weeks and months, she hoped members of her group would be able to talk with neighbors to hear more about the issues possibly leading to more crime.
"You can’t just go in there into each community and say this is what we’re going to do. You have to find out the needs of the community," she said. "If all we in the community do is sit and complain and be upset but nothing is happening and no action is getting past us being frustrated, then nothing is going to change.”
Pastor Quantrell Smith of Chosen Disciples Christian Ministries said the trips to neighborhoods impacted by crime will span across Prince George's County and possibly parts of Washington, D.C.
Moving forward, he hoped the prayer gatherings and crime discussions could help show children and families that others care about them.
"You just never know the effect that something may have when you show that you do care," he said. "If we all get together and show that we care and try to fight this thing together, we may get a different outcome.”
The "Prayers Up, Guns Down March" hosted by Breaking Barriers and the Black Rhythm Coalition will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Dave & Buster's parking lot in Capitol Heights.
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