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Student's death prompts prayer vigil downtown

November 08, 1998

Prayer vigilBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




The horrific death of Matthew Shepard, a political science student at the University of Wyoming, is one that area pastors would like no one to forget.

Shepard was killed by two thieves who targeted him because of his homosexuality. Such violent hate crimes are not limited to Wyoming, said the Rev. David Buchenroth, president of the Washington County Council of Churches.

Buchenroth said such heinous acts are compounded by public apathy.

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"The greater tragedy ... what is worse than all that is when good people stand by and do nothing," said Buchenroth.

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Seeking to raise awareness of hate crimes and unify the community in prayer, Buchenroth, members of the Washington County Council of Churches and about 50 people gathered at Public Square on Sunday.

"We can't stand by and say that it doesn't affect us. We have to stand up for what's right and good," Buchenroth told the crowd.

Shepard was beaten, tied to a split-rail fence on the prairie east of Laramie and left to die. He was found Oct. 7 by a bicyclist and died Oct. 12 in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.

Two Laramie roofers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, both 21, have been charged with murder. Police said robbery was the primary motive but that Shepard was singled out because he was gay.

The Rev. Robert Griffin, pastor of New Light Metropolitan Church, spoke of the need for forgiveness of the two suspects, not retaliation against them.

"Sometimes it's hard to forgive ignorance in times like these. But we must forgive, heal and move on," he said.

Killing the men who took Shepard's life does not help their cause, he said.

"Better to stand together as a true society. Stand against hate," said Griffin.

Husband and wife Bruce and Maury Badger of Hagerstown attended the vigil to show their support for the cause.

Bruce Badger said those who remain silent but profess to be good in the community are as abhorrent as those who commit the crime.

Badger said he and his wife, by their presence, hoped to make a statement that will be heard by area legislators.

"Silence is at the root of all we see happening, We have to say 'no more, no more,'" said Maury Badger.

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