Son of slain church security guard speaks out www.privateofficer.com
Detroit MI May 14 2012 As a new security guard patrolled the parking lot at Victory Way Assembly Church of God in Christ in Detroit this morning, the son of the 84-year-old guard who was shot and killed there last Wednesday offered parishioners a message of faith and perseverance.
“It’s a tragedy that something like this would happen,” Anthony Lewis, 51, the youngest son of Joseph Lewis, said from the podium. “But I had to come to the church today that he gave his life for. It’s not your fault my father was shot. He was doing what he loved. He did it because he loved you.”
Joseph Lewis died Wednesday after being confronted by two men in the church parking lot, on Tireman between Livernois and I-96, as he guarded cars during the evening Bible study.
The Detroit Police Department is still investigating Lewis’ death, and no arrests have been made, spokeswoman Sgt. Eren Stephens said today.
Anthony Lewis said his father was a Korean War veteran who had been awarded a Bronze Star and guarded churches across the city for more than 55 years. Dedicated to his family, Joseph Lewis instilled a sense of perseverance in his two sons and daughter, Anthony Lewis said.
Anthony Lewis, himself an Army veteran, said he recently returned to Detroit from Afghanistan. He spent four days with his father before heading to Florida for a job interview and learned by text message in Jacksonville that his father had been shot and killed.
Today, in a voice comparable to any preacher, he told about 60 members of Victory Way that his faith in God remains.
“When you’ve been in a war zone, you’re not afraid,” Anthony Lewis bellowed, chords from the church organ reverberating through the church and its members as his voice rose. “He giveth and he taketh away! And blessed be the name of the Lord!”
The church’s leader, Pastor Sylvester Rowan, vowed not to let the action of the two men who gunned down Lewis influence the church’s plan for growth and outreach in the community.
“If we’re not careful, we’ll want to run because we’ll say, ‘I’m done,’ when God is really saying, ‘Stand because the plan isn’t completed just yet,’” Rowan said this morning. “So this painful, very tragic situation steels my resolve that we cannot let people — that very small element of the community — we can’t let them influence what we’re doing in the community. Because if we do, in this instance, then Mr. Lewis’ service and death is in vain.”
The congregation also took an offering to help pay for Lewis’ funeral, scheduled for Friday at O.H. Pye Funeral Home in Detroit.
Sister Enga Rowan said she sobbed the night Lewis was killed, thinking about the helpful, friendly man who called the well-dressed pastor’s wife “Mrs. Hollywood.”
“He always had something sweet to say,” she said. “He’d tell the ladies, ‘You smell so good, you make a man’s day.’”
Church members knew Lewis as the security guard who — despite his own age — walked senior members to the door or helped women with their bags as they arrived. He provided a sense of welcome to the Pentecostal, predominantly black congregation.
“That’s a great loss to us, the family and community,” said Deacon Jimmy Jones, a member of the church since 1984. “And we are very, very sorry.”
Parishioner Laronda Jackson, 24, of Farmington Hills, who was baptized at the church as a baby, said Lewis epitomized dedication to the congregation.
“His goal was to protect the church,” she said. “You’d say, ‘Do you want a meal?’ He’d say, ‘I’ve got to protect the church.’ So we’d bring food out to him.”
As church neighbor Reva Kovaleski Bell, 21, walked with her husband along the front of the church before services this morning, she called out to the new security guard, “Be careful. It’s dangerous out here.”
Despite the warning, she and husband Lamarr Bell, 30, said they’re not afraid in their neighborhood. They said they heard the gunshot that killed Lewis as they were outside with their children Wednesday.
“I wish they would turn themselves in because that guy’s been here for years,” Reva Kovaleski Bell said of Lewis. “They should turn themselves in, but I know they’re not going to do that, because they don’t have enough heart to do it. Cause if they had enough heart to turn themselves in, they would have had enough heart not to kill him.”