In Belle Glade, Florida, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office held a National Night Out event on Thursday evening. This event occurred less than 24 hours after a tragic double shooting on Canal Street that took the lives of Eddie Willingham, 43, and Allah Lawrence, 36.
Margaret Miller, a former educator in Belle Glade, spoke about her personal connection to the victims. She stated, “Allah Lawrence, I knew him real well. I had his sisters and stuff. Eddie? His birthday was yesterday and I know that family a long time.” Miller described Willingham as a quiet individual who was very close to his family. She revealed that he had spent his 43rd birthday celebrating with his loved ones before the fatal incident occurred.
The community of Belle Glade mourns the loss of these two individuals and the impact is deeply felt by those who knew them. Miller emphasized the tight-knit nature of their community, stating, “We’re a small-knit family. When you’re raised together, you consider each other as family. It’s sad. Nobody wants to come forward but until it happens to them, they’ll change.”
Despite the tragedy, the National Night Out event at Glades Pioneer Park aimed to foster trust and connections between first responders and the community. Jalen Rushing, a youth prevention specialist with Gang Alternative, expressed the importance of such events, saying, “This event is one of the biggest things that will allow us to do that, coming together and realize that the police are not our enemy. They are our friends, and they’re here to help us and protect us and serve us.” Gang Alternative, a nonprofit organization, focuses on guiding young adults away from criminal activities and towards a positive path.
Belle Glade has experienced a series of fatal shooting incidents in recent weeks, including one involving teenagers. The community is left questioning when change will be realized. Rushing urged the community to come forward with any information, emphasizing the need for justice and closure for the victims’ families. Those with information are encouraged to contact the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office at 561-688-3400.
The tragic events in Belle Glade serve as a reminder of the need for community support and engagement to combat violence and create a safer environment for all residents.