Pastor says shooting victim wanted to improve his life


"He, like someone else in history, fell at the foot of the cross, outside of the gate," said Allen Temple Baptist Church Pastor Emeritus J. Alfred Smith Sr.

The comments came at a press conference to announce that the Allen Temple Leadership Institute has been awarded a $430,000 grant, money that will be used to train young faith leaders in violence prevention.

"We want to assure you that we are in no way discouraged," said J. Alfred Smith Jr., Allen Temple's senior pastor.

The press conference came one day after 46-year-old Leon Wilson was gunned down at the church's side entrance on 85th Avenue, near A St. Church leaders say Wilson was attending a special GED class for those transitioning from prison or jail back into the community.

Two church officials told ABC7 Wilson received several phone calls during the morning class from a woman that apparently prompted him to step outside, where he was shot in the head at the base of a large cross. Smith Jr. said Wilson was from the "Richmond corridor" and was in the process of trying to turn his life around after getting out of prison a month ago.

"Anytime you have a homicide happening in front of a church, and Allen Temple is a great church, it's going to be very concerning to the police department," Holly Joshi from the Oakland Police Department said.

Police have not made any arrests in the case. Witnesses reported seeing a gunman jump into a white Chrysler with a woman at the wheel. According to Oakland police, Wilson's death marks Oakland's 74th murder of the year. That's compared with 90 at this time last year.

"As the body of Leon Wilson lay at the gates of the church, it is evident that our work is not yet done," said Dr. Barbara Bowman PhD, the director of the Temple's Leadership Institute.

Church leaders spoke just hours after another man was shot less than a mile away along 102nd Ave. He is expected to survive.

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