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Religious leaders took to the front lines amid courthouse shooting

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Just moments after the unthinkable happened, panic broke out on the streets of St. Joseph.

Escaping the courthouse was on the minds of many, but the area’s religious community took to the front lines.

Countless faith leaders stepped up with open arms to comfort those who were grieving.

One of those leaders was Bishop James Atterberry Sr. who opened the doors of his church while he spent that night in the hospital with one of the surviving shooting victims, who happened to be his son, Deputy James Atterberry.

“I said ‘Lord you know, take me don’t take my children,’” said Atterberry Sr., Brotherhood of All Nations Church of God in Christ.

It was a heartbreaking plea from a father leaning on faith.

Before his prayers, panic shook the Berrien County Courthouse.

“I’d never experienced anything like this before.” He said.

While shockwaves crossed the bridge to Benton Harbor.

Reverend Rodney Gulley of New Covenant Community Baptist Church told Atterberry Sr., “I said Bishop, your son was shot but I think it’s going to be ok.”

Reverend Gulley phoned bad news to Bishop Atterberry – a friend and a father who was many miles away.

“I was in Detroit at the time when he said it was not life threatening but then on my way home, the news said, three dead,” said the Bishop.

Deputy James Atterberry Jr. was admitted to the hospital after being shot with his own gun.

“But he was doing his job. It’s not his fault. It was that evil guy’s fault that day that attacked him,” said Paul Bailey, Berrien County Sheriff.

Atterberry Jr. was thought of as a great family man.

And at his home church, “He was a minister at the time of the shooting, and we just believe the Lord spared his life and gave him another chance,” said Atterberry Sr.

Amid his family crisis, Bishop Atterberry opened the doors of Brotherhood of All Nations.

In his absence, Reverend Gulley led a prayer gathering for the community. “It wasn’t for me, it was for the fallen officers’ families and Bishop Atterberry’s son—that he would survive,” said Gulley.

Gulley carried the weight of the day’s tragedy, hoping through prayer, we all stand united.

Gulley says, “As a man of God, I want us as a community to not only just rally around remembering the events, but let’s pray continuously for police officers in our community.”

One year later, support continues to grow and the community grows with it.

“You can’t give up. Bad things happen. You just got to keep the faith and you got to keep it moving,” said the Bishop.

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