“There is still hope for Sumter”: Pastor says more could be done to curb growing number of homicides

Pastor Marian Newton says it's his passion to try and educate children in his county about gun violence

SUMTER, S.C. (WOLO) — Back when he first became a Pastor at Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church in Sumter, Marian Newton remembers Sumter being a different town.

“30 years ago, you had no fear of walking down the streets, going downtown, stuff like that,” Newton said.

Ever since New Year’s Day 23-year-old Montrell Epps and 17-year-old Antwan Dukes lost their lives as a result of gun violence.

 Newton says the growth in gun use among young adults stems from what they deal with in society.

“They have a lot of pressure on them, I think a lot more than when I was coming up, a lot of peer pressure, bullying, stuff like that. It may appear that they are not afraid, but when you start to talking to them, you get it out of them that they are afraid,” Newton said.

Newton says his staff includes a youth pastor that talks with students across the area, and they also hold events talking about the impact of gun violence in a way that speaks to young adults.

“Too often, we go in with the Big Bible, and that’s going to run them away. You’ve got to go in there with their type of music to get their attention,” said Newton.

By increasing community involvement, Pastor Newton says connecting early with the younger generation will work wonders for the city’s future.

“There is hope for Sumter. That’s why it has become my passion to help turn this around,” Newton said.

The suspect in Epps’s murder appeared in court Tuesday morning.

A Sumter County judge deferred bond for 20-year-old Deontae Jackson to general sessions court due to the nature of the charges.

Jackson is currently in custody at the Sumter Lee Regional Detention Center. His next court date has yet to be set.

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