published Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Prayer for Keoshia: Vigil held at spot where teen was caught in gang shooting

Keoshia Ford is shaded by an umbrella while a crowd gathers for a prayer vigil Saturday at the site on Bennett Avenue in Chattanooga where she was shot in the head March 17.
Keoshia Ford is shaded by an umbrella while a crowd gathers for a prayer vigil Saturday at the site on Bennett Avenue in Chattanooga where she was shot in the head March 17.
Photo by Jake Daniels.

LeKeshia Matthews was at a loss for words Saturday as she stood near the spot where her 13-year-old daughter was gunned down, shot in the head.

Since March 17 her daughter, Keoshia Ford, has not been able to speak a word. She can't care for herself and remains in an almost frozen state.

"The doctor said the only way the condition may be reversed is by a miracle through the power of prayer," Olivet Baptist Church pastor Kevin Adams said during a prayer vigil for Keoshia in front of a home at 2012 Bennett Ave.

He asked a crowd of about 125 people to bow their heads and hold each other's hands as he and several other area pastors from various faiths led the group in prayers.

When it was Matthews' turn to speak, she let out a tearful moan before collapsing to the ground.

"It's just coming over here and thinking that I'm going to lose my baby," said Matthews, 30, speaking to reporters after the vigil. "It was hard to come here, but I knew I had to pull through for my baby; let her know I love her."

During the vigil, Adams announced people have donated $13,000 to Keoshia.

"We had 13 days to do it," Adams said of the days leading up to the vigil. "She was 13 years old."

When her wheelchair was lowered off an Olivet Baptist Church bus Saturday afternoon, Keoshia wore a tube-top floral print dress that matched those worn by her younger sisters.

The family of women applied pink eye shadow to her eyelids and adorned her hair with a pink floral headband. As the chair came out of the bus, people attending the service gave her a small round of applause.

"I just want to say thanks for the donations. Thanks for coming out," said Matthews during an interview.

Boyd Patterson, the city's gang task force coordinator, announced the fundraiser nearly two weeks ago in hopes of helping Keoshia's family. They are caring for her along with a full-time nurse at home and are in constant need of medical and hygiene supplies.

Patterson said rather than holding the vigil at a church, it was important to revisit the spot where Keoshia was shot. She was sitting on a car when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting.

"We had it here because this is where we need y'all," he said to the crowd.

Matthews said during the interview, "It made me feel good because they're here for her, but I think we should do this more often."

Debrah Henry, 57, who used to live near Keoshia's family in East Lake Courts housing project, said she hopes people will remember Keoshia. She hopes Keoshia will be a catalyst for change.

"It will be a wake-up call for a lifetime because it's time for us to stop," she said, later adding. "We need to go back to our neighborhoods and take it back like we're doing now. Just like we prayed right here, we need to be having prayer vigils all over until God turns this thing around; because really it's gotten out of hand."

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