Hundreds of people gathered in Elizabethtown Community Park for a candlelight prayer vigil following the death of a teenage boy from injuries he sustained when he was assaulted in the same park days earlier.
Blake John Shearer, 16, of Bainbridge, died the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 10, at Hershey Medical Center. He had been attacked in the park on Monday, Aug. 6, by a man who was angry about the volume of music he was playing, police said.
Shortly after Shearer died, David Mikeal Skalla, 24, of Elizabethtown was charged with criminal homicide and aggravated assault for the attack on Shearer. Skalla is in state prison on an unrelated parole violation, authorities said.
The vigil held the evening of Friday, Aug. 10, in the amphitheater of the park had been planned before Shearer died.
“We thought tonight we were going to be praying for the healing of Blake,” said Al Frank, pastor of Conoy Brethren In Christ Church.
Frank said Shearer and his mother had been at his house for a garage sale a week earlier and they recognized him from a memorial service he had led nine years earlier. He said he had been at the hospital praying with the family.
Frank said the family was angry and upset with God and he assured them that it was a normal reaction.
“I said God can handle that,” Frank said.
Also, Frank said it is normal to be unsure what to do.
“I am willing to admit as a pastor of 46 years that I don’t know what to do,” Frank said.
But he said he wanted the television news cameras to show that the community is coming together in a spirit of unity.
“This is the way E-Town is and we want it to continue. … This community wants to love you and pray for you,” Frank said.
Frank said Elizabethtown should learn from Nickel Mines, an apparent reference to the 2006 shooting in an Amish schoolhouse in eastern Lancaster County in which a man shot 10 girls, killing five of them, before killing himself. The Amish community reacted by reaching out to the killer’s family, comforting them and raising money for them.
Several others spoke at the vigil, urging those in attendance not to let themselves develop hate for anyone, but to embrace love and forgiveness, following the example set by Jesus. The event closed with the Lord’s Prayer; those in attendance were asked to come forward to the stage to sign two pieces of poster board, which were to be given to the family.