Police Seek Leads in Shooting at Church
Incident Doesn't Reflect Efforts to Improve Area, Community Members Say

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008

Police investigators continued to search yesterday for a suspect and motive in a shooting that left two people wounded Wednesday night outside a Suitland church where the victims had been attending Bible study.

Shortly before 9 p.m., a 42-year-year-old man was shot in the arm and an 84-year-old woman was grazed by a bullet in the parking lot of the Assembly of the Saints Church in the 4800 block of Suitland Road, a spokesman for the Prince George's County police said.

As the victims were leaving the church, they were approached by a masked assailant, said Officer Henry Tippett, the spokesman.

"He produced a handgun and fired multiple shots at the victims," Tippett said. He said officers canvassed the area Wednesday night in search of a suspect.

This was not the first time members of the church have been victimized by crime. The church's pastor called the incident a test of faith.

"We have cars broken into and things taken, but we are not going to stop people from coming to the church," said Bishop George F. Haskins, pastor of the congregation, which is part of a network of churches he heads on the East Coast.

Haskins said that the victims are members of his congregation and that they were in good condition. He said there are no plans to change Easter services this weekend.

Lee Vines, a real estate agent who has worked with Haskins's church, said the shooting was particularly unfortunate because the church is working to improve the Suitland community, which has struggled with crime and violence for years. In 2003, two grandmothers in their 70s were fatally stabbed when their flower shop was robbed two blocks away.

"This is uncalled for," said Vines, who had come to the parking lot out of concern. "We need to do a better job of watching out for each other. . . . This church has a lot of outreach programs for the community."

The incident was also jarring for members of the Suitland Road Church of Christ next door. Ed Maxwell Sr., the church's minister, said the shooting should not be seen as representative of the Suitland community.

"This is not the problem or the reflection of the Suitland community; this is a reflection of the character of our society," he said. "It is a reflection of humanity.

The Assembly of the Saints Church organization was founded 23 years ago. The Suitland congregation opened in 2001, and the church is expanding and renovating its current location.

"Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me,' " Haskins said. "We are not moving; we are here to stay."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company