Portsmouth Emanuel AME says churches are uniting to show support for Charleston

Posted at 6:31 PM, Jun 19, 2015

Portsmouth, Va. - People in Hampton Roads are feeling the pain after a 21-year-old is accused of murdering nine people in a South Carolina Church.

Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime in this week’s shooting at a historic black church in Charleston. Police said the crime was racially motivated.

NewsChannel 3 met with leaders from the Emanuel AME Church in Portsmouth Friday afternoon.

After living through the civil rights movement, 76-year-old Saundra Stigers says seeing violence stemmed from hatred is overwhelming.

"Someone came into a house of worship with Satan riding on his back. To see this sort of thing again, it was really overwhelming, it was really overwhelming,"
said Stigers, Emanuel AME Historian in Portsmouth.

The crime has pastors all over the country taking about security.

"Do you have to lock the door in the house of the Lord? Is that what are country has come to," said Portsmouth AME Pastor Ranger Flythe. "It disturbs me when we are in bible study and the door is not locked."

"The criminal element considers the church a soft target, said Brian Melchor, a church security expert.

Melchor has been holding seminars for churches members for years and teaching them how to protect themselves.

He said he`s seen a spike in calls since the shooting on Wednesday night from church leaders looking for advice.

Flythe said upgrades to security can be expensive for many churches.

"Of course, resources in the church are that you can`t do all those things, so we have to rely on pray and hope that God will take care of us and do what we can do," he said.

AME church leaders in Hampton Roads are working right now to organization pray vigil to bring all the AME churches together to show unity and support for the people in Charleston.

"Love is the foundation and love is how we are going to move on," said Stigers.