Shooting Revives Memories of Other Children Lost

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Sadly, Payton Benson is not the first child to be killed in gang crossfire over the years. The Omaha Police Union has pointed that out prominently on its Facebook page.

During our 4 o'clock news chat Friday, some wondered if those marches and prayers and efforts to stop the violence we see all the time are really working.

We posed that question to those who've been heavily involved over the years.

With five young men in custody and Omaha detectives trying to figure out who among them may have pulled the trigger or if it's someone they haven't arrested yet, many in the community are trying to wrap their arms around the tragedy. With that comes the mantra to stop the violence.

While the question is a subjective one, many who are behind the movement say what they’re doing is working.

The prayer walk for Payton Benson Thursday night drew a couple hundred people. From the family there were pleas of "no more guns" -- "no more retaliation."

One of the men leading the charge was Dave Gehrls. As part of the Empowerment Network he has held a prayer walk for every Omaha homicide victim since 2007; more than 200 in all.

The prayer walks were initially inspired by the death of a six-year-old girl. Alazia Alford was killed by gang gunfire.

Gehrls said, "It hits you hard when children pay the price for adult violence."

We asked if what happened this week to a five-year-old girl made him doubt the mission. He said no.

Gehrls said, "There have been many times when I've asked should we keep doing this and wondered if I would be the target myself of gang violence. One day my grandson had another boy come up to him and asked if his grandpa does those prayer walks. I want you to tell him that my mom said thanks his for coming. It made a major difference."

He says every prayer walk helps support a family and a neighborhood and that continued togetherness, even when there are bullets still flying, has a way of winning out in the end.

"We have to be together on this issue," he said.

In addition to Payton Benson and Alazia Alford, infant Deandrea Robinson and five-year-old Lasandra Coleman have also been killed in the crossfire of gang violence. Deandrea was killed in his home 10 years ago. Lasandra was killed in 2005. by gang gunfire. Her case remains unsolved.