Pine Bluff faith and community leaders seeking answers to deadly violence gripping city


PINE BLUFF, Ark. — A deadly week in Pine Bluff continued overnight Friday, continuing to spark outrage among community leaders and clergy.

Officers with the Hot Springs Police Department are still investigating the city’s fourth homicide in five days.

One man is dead from the Thursday night shooting, while police say another, 48-year-old Vincent Peal, will face a charge of first-degree murder.

As drivers headed down South Maple Street in Pine Bluff, they saw crosses dotting the roadside. They are now scattered across town in memory of the four people who lost their lives to violence this week.

Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition – Ministerial Alliance President Rev. Jesse Turner said he has been placing crosses at murder scenes for decades.

“We put the crosses down to highlight what’s going on in our city,” Turner explained.

But the recent string of violence in Pine Bluff has the reverend shocked.

“We put crosses up in the last five months for two 15-year-olds, a 14-year-old,” Pine Bluff Faith Community Coalition – Ministerial Alliance President Rev. Jesse Turner said. “It’s just, it’s just unacceptable.”

Police found 36-year-old Brandon Dement with gunshot wounds Sunday in front of his home on South Maple Street.

Then on Monday night, around the same time but a block away from the first shooting, a 14-year-old girl was shot and killed.

On Tuesday night, Pine Bluff recorded its 10th homicide when 38-year-old Jason Anderson was shot and killed.

Then Thursday night on South Hazel Street, police found 43-year-old Kevin Brazell shot to death.

The first three homicides are all still under investigation. No suspect information has been released.

The violence and loss of life is painful for faith leaders like Turner.

“It’s heart wrenching to me, and I can also say with the other pastors I work with,” Turner said. “We are out within 15 feet of the homicides, placing a cross, praying, talking to anyone that we see.”

Turner said the clergy has a meeting scheduled to talk about solutions, and he hopes more people will get involved.

“We just want to strengthen our community. We want a safe community,” he said, hopeful that he won’t have to put another cross down.

Efforts were made to get a comment on the violence from Mayor Shirley M. Washington, but her office said she was in meetings and wouldn’t be available Friday.

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