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Faith Leaders Pray for Victims, Call for Change After Little Rock Club Shooting

by Phil Helsel /
Little Rock Police detectives and crime scene personnel collect evidence at the Ultra Power Lounge on July 1, 2017 in Little Rock, Arkansas following a shooting that injured over two dozen people.Benjamin Krain / Getty Images

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Faith leaders called for an end to violence in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Saturday, after over two dozen people were wounded in a nightclub shooting that police say may have been gang-related.

"Little Rock tonight is a river city of tears," Rabbi Barry Block said at the interfaith event.

Speakers prayed for the 25 people who were shot after a dispute at the Power Ultra Lounge nightclub early Saturday morning, in which multiple gunmen are suspected of opening fire, and said they were thankful no one was killed.

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"We also lament all of the lives that have been lost recently in our community," said Carissa Rodgers, director of Wesley Foundation at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. "Lives lost by guns, and by drive-bys and by other forms of violence."

Police are searching for those involved in the shooting, which erupted around 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday (3:30 a.m. ET). Cell phone video from inside the club recorded the sound of rapid gunfire.

"We believe that this potentially involved gang activity," Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner said. There have been at least 10 drive-by shootings in less than two weeks in Little Rock, and Buckner said some of those incidents may be related to the conflict in Saturday's shooting.

Two of the victims were in critical condition, authorities said. The shooting took place at a rap concert. The victims ranged in age from 16 to 35, Buckner said. Three people were injured in the chaos as people fled after the gunfire.

Little Rock Police detectives and crime scene personnel collect evidence at the Ultra Power Lounge on July 1, 2017 in Little Rock, Arkansas following a shooting that injured over two dozen people.Benjamin Krain / Getty Images

A witness who lives across the street described hearing the gunfire and seeing bloodied people streaming out of the venue and into a parking. "People were screaming. There was panic, chaos," Uday Akkaraju said.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola announced Saturday that the nightclub’s liquor license was suspended and said the city is taking steps to shut down the venue. He also announced a crackdown on felons and parolees carrying guns on the streets.

Police have not publicly identified any suspects in the shooting. The FBI said it is assisting police to identify all those responsible.

David Freeman, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Little Rock, called on the community to use the shooting as a call to address gun violence in the city. "Unless our prayers tonight are a call to action, unless you and I — you and I — do something" more vigils for victims will have to be held.

"Is our community too broken, is our humanity too broken?" he said. "Instead of being formed by this tragedy we will be transformed," he added.

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