Pastor robbed at gunpoint after anti-violence rally - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Pastor robbed at gunpoint after anti-violence rally


Just hours after a group of religious leaders finished a community outreach event in Savannah on Saturday, speaking out against recent crime in the city, one of those leaders was the target of an armed robbery.

It's exactly the kind of activity Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church Pastor Thomas Sills and dozens of other church leaders are fighting to stop here in Savannah.

The "We Must Do Something" event focused on offering a message of hope, to young adults especially, in high crime areas this past Saturday.

But according to a police report, when Sills was at a River Street parking lot Saturday night, two people jumped out of the bushes and robbed him.

"And then all of a sudden, I could feel the presence of somebody getting close to me. And when I turned around to look, they had a gun in my face,” said Sills. 

According to the police report, one of those thieves was a minor, only 14. The other, was 18-year-old Jared Murphy, and both were taken into custody.

"I hold no grudge. Let's help you get better. Let's see what's going on that's wrong. There's so many of us in this community that can help, we're here,” said Sills. 

Police say while there is a level of awareness we all need to have while walking at night, but there's not much that can be done in an ambush situation.

"Sometimes you just can’t avoid an ambush. There are just spots where you're going to come up against a blindside because of a building, or shrubs, or just the way the street is configured,” said Cpl. John Simmons, SCMPD Crime Prevention Officer.

The gunman demanded Sills' phone and wallet before taking off.

"We always stress that you err on the side of caution and safety. So be compliant, and do your best to be a good witness as to whoever is talking the most or doing the most active stuff. Remember as much as you can about them,” said Cpl. Simmons.

It was Sills' stolen phone that actually led investigators to the two thieves, through a tracking app.

Sills said when he sees the number of young people who are committing crimes, the first thing he thinks is, "we failed somewhere."

"The second thing is, now that we've failed somewhere, let's fix it. And the only way we can fix it is keep putting boots on the ground, reaching these young people to see what you need from us who care,” Sills added. 

One way he's doing that is through a "father-son" mentorship program at his church, that pairs men with at-risk youth.

And for Sills to be robbed by the very group he wants to reach, that only motivates him more.

"And for this to happen only hours after our march, it just gave me more fuel. As soon as Pastor Roberson or any other groups say, 'Let's get out there again,' I'm ready, I'm willing. I'm not going to give up now. I'm going stronger,” said Sills. 

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