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Charlotte churches offer prayer, support for first responders after officers killed in shootout

First Baptist Church of Charlotte hosted the memorial service for Joshua Eyer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on Friday, May 3. Eyer was one of four law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during a shootout on Monday, April 29. Screen capture from YouTube

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Pastor Jack Homesley posed a sobering question at the start of Calvary Baptist Church of Charlotte’s midweek prayer service on Wednesday, May 1.

How well would you sleep tonight if you knew at midnight every law enforcement officer and first responder in the United States was walking off the job for 24 hours?

“Most of you probably wouldn’t be sitting here, and I probably wouldn’t be either,” said Homesley, who devoted Wednesday’s service to praying for the families of law enforcement officers from multiple agencies who were killed or wounded during a shootout in a Charlotte neighborhood just two days earlier.

On Monday, April 29, four officers were killed and four others were wounded during a shootout with an armed suspect around 1:30 p.m. while attempting to serve an arrest warrant at a residence in an east Charlotte neighborhood.

The four officers killed in the attack were identified as: Joshua Eyer, an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD); William Elliott and Sam Poloche, both of the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction; and Thomas Weeks, a deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service.

Four CMPD officers wounded in the incident were identified as: Jack Blowers, Justin Campbell, Michael Giglio and Christopher Tolley. According to a CMPD news release, Tolley underwent surgery to treat gunshot wounds and remains hospitalized. Blowers and Giglio were treated for gunshot wounds and released from the hospital on Monday. Campbell was treated for a broken foot and was released from the hospital Tuesday morning.

The suspect – identified by police as 39-year-old Terry Clark Hughes Jr. – was killed in the incident. He was wanted for possession of a firearm by a felon and two counts of fleeing to elude in Lincoln County, North Carolina.

During the investigation, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 40-caliber handgun and additional magazines and ammo for both weapons were recovered at the scene.

First Baptist Church of Charlotte hosted the memorial service for Eyer at 10 a.m. Friday (May 3), which was preceded by a processional march from CMPD headquarters to the church that included CMPD employees and other law enforcement personnel.

At the beginning of the service, FBC Charlotte’s Senior Pastor Rob Wilton welcomed Eyer’s family, friends and fellow officers by pledging support on behalf of the church and the broader Christian community.

“We stand with you in your grief, ready to offer support, comfort and hope as we journey through this time of mourning,” Wilton said. “Jesus has declared these words in our mourning: ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’”

Wilton also opened the service in prayer.

“Please be with us in this time of unspeakable grief,” Wilton said. “We pray for our city as we battle with the shock and sadness of this tragedy. Please, Lord, bring your healing touch to our community, and unite us together in unity and understanding. Help us to support each other, especially the families who lost their loved ones.”

On Thursday (May 2), less than 24 hours before Eyer’s memorial service, FBC Charlotte also hosted an event for the National Day of Prayer, which was attended by more than 400 pastors representing more than 100 churches, church officials said. Those attending the National Day of Prayer event spent a significant amount of time praying about Monday’s tragedy, law enforcement officers, and first responders.

Each year for National Police Week in May, FBC Charlotte hosts a police memorial ceremony organized by the CMPD. Following that ceremony each year, FBC Charlotte provides lunch for police officers and first responders as an expression of appreciation for their service.

“It is a huge honor and a privilege, and a lot of prayer and support goes into loving the officers as they come onto our campus,” said Kristin Mayhone, who serves as FBC Charlotte’s executive director.

Monday’s incident sent shockwaves throughout the Charlotte community and captured the nation’s attention. On Thursday, President Joe Biden visited Charlotte to meet privately with the families of the officers killed.

Collectively, the four officers who died leave behind families with a total of eight children, many of whom are very young.

That sense of loss touched one church member at Eastway Baptist Church whose own husband died in his 30s leaving her with a young son to raise.

“She was in tears praying for these children that God would bring the right people around them to fill the void in their lives,” said Angie Wolff, whose husband Mike serves as Eastway Baptist’s interim pastor. “She could pray very specifically into the lives of those wives and very specifically into the lives of those children.”

Angie Wolff also serves as the office manager with the Metrolina Baptist Association in Charlotte.

Like other churches across Charlotte, Eastway Baptist spent time in focused prayer in the aftermath of Monday’s tragedy. During the church’s midweek prayer service, members prayed for each family impacted by Monday’s tragedy.

“We called the officers and families by name,” Wolff said. “We talked a lot about how God is our comfort.”

Eastway Baptist is located about 3 miles from where Monday’s incident happened, and Wolff said several church members live in the same neighborhood where the shooting took place.

Homesley and the members of Calvary Baptist also took time to pray for the families of the fallen officers by name. Church members prayed for the safety and protection of law enforcement officers and other first responders.

During Wednesday’s prayer service, Homesley drew from Romans 13, in which the apostle Paul instructs Christians to be subject to governing authorities that act as agents of justice on God’s behalf.

Homesley said those killed in Monday’s tragedy were not just four officers, but four people with lives and families.

“(They were) people who were sons,” Homesley said. “People who were husbands and fathers. People who were serving our community.”

This article originally appeared in the Biblical Recorder.