2017-08-11 / Front Page

Prayer vigil for slain teen brings with it pleas for information about shooter

By TIM GULLA
Ledger Staff Writer

Tears welled in her eyes as Essence Wilkins recalled the last words she heard from a young woman she found shot outside her Lincoln Drive home Monday night.

“Thank you,” 18-year-old Jasmin McGill told Wilkins, who had fashioned a T-shirt into a tourniquet in an effort to stop McGill from bleeding and continually talked with her until police and paramedics arrived. “I’m going to be Ok,” McGill said.

McGill would die a short time later from her injury. But the calmness she exhibited in her last few minutes served as proof for friends, family and local faith leaders who assembled at a candlelight prayer vigil Wednesday night that God had other plans for the young woman.

“Thank you for Jasmin,” Rev. J.W. Sanders Jr. prayed aloud.

“Amen,” the crowd responded.

The prayer vigil was held just a few feet from where McGill was shot and fell to the ground Monday night. Police say a group of 20 to 30 people had been in a fight and that evidence shows gunfire came from more than one gun.

Police said McGill, a recent Gaffney High School graduate who lived on Brookwood Drive, was struck in the leg by one of the bullets. Police said she was a bystander and did not believe she was a target.

Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said Thursday an autopsy confirmed McGill died as a result of the single gunshot wound to her leg.

The Wednesday night prayer vigil not only served as a celebration of the young woman’s life but also as a plea for witnesses to come forward and for young people to turn away from gun violence.

No arrests in McGill’s death had been reported as of Thursday afternoon.

“This is the Gaffney I know,” Jack Logan said Wednesday evening as he addressed the large crowd that had assembled for the prayer vigil, “to see people assembled, to show Jasmin love, to show her mother love.”

Logan, who heads up the anti-violence group Put Down the Guns Now Young People and who helped organize the vigil, has traveled to Gaffney several times in recent weeks due to gun violence incidents and implored people to “put down the guns.”

“From this day forward,” he said, “let’s make Gaffney the way it’s supposed to be. That’s through church and loving Jesus.”

The shooting incident came as a shock to many, particularly residents of the quiet neighborhood.

“We’ve always had peace and love on this street,” offered one neighbor. “I have been so hurt since this happened.”

Rev. Wilbert Jamison, president of the Cherokee County Chapter of the NAACP, said the greatest way to show love in this case is to go to police if you know something about the shooting. “Love is an action word,” he told the crowd Wednesday night. “Show that love. Show that concern.

If you know anything, let law enforcement know.”

The youngest of seven children, McGill’s death left a huge void for her family.

“My heart’s broken,” said her older sister Quincey Armstrong. “We just want to know what happened to our baby sister.”

Ronnie Wilkins, whose yard was used for the prayer vigil, said he was in his bedroom Monday night when he heard a commotion outside. The next thing he knew, gunshots rang out and his wife, who had been headed outside to investigate, yelled “Get down.”

Wilkins estimates he heard about 12 gunshots altogether in quick succession. After calling 9-1-1 he went outside and saw his daughter Essence and wife, Alice, tending to McGill.

Essence Wilkins said she kept asking McGill basic questions such as her name, age and where she went to school just to keep her talking. “When the stretcher came, she (McGill) was holding my hand.”

At most, Wilkins said, she only got to talk to McGill for the few minutes they were together there on the roadway. But the young woman made a lasting impact on Wilkins.

“I feel like I’ve known her all 18 years of her life,” Wilkins said.

See more photos from the candlelight vigil here: Prayer Vigil for Jasmin McGill

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