Orange County bishop and activist steps up to stop gang feuds

Bishop Kelvin Cobaris spent the day working the phones. 

He’s rounding up folks to help curb the recent gang violence in Pine Hills. It’s something he says he’s the seen the aftermath of first hand. 

“This location represents the church that we have used over the last few months to host funerals for victims of those who have been gunned down by the senseless violence,” Bishop Cobaris said. He invited FOX 35 News to New Life Church. It's one of the largest congregations in Pine Hills where the sitting bishop allows him to hold funeral services.

“I have had a funeral every Saturday since the month of March throughout this COVID pandemic. And the majority of those funerals have not been deaths of COVID -- they’ve been shootings and senseless violence taking place in our community,” Cobaris said. “Repeatedly, literally I have sat in the congregation and stood there and stood there and preach over one young man watching young men sitting in this section and I’m burying one of those young men in that section the following weekend.”

RELATED: $5,000 reward offered for information on fatal shooting of 3-year-old boy

After two innocent children were killed this week in drive-by shootings, Sheriff John Mina addressed the reporters and said that there have been seven gang-related drive-by's over the last three months. Sheriff Mina called them “targeted shootings” between the 438 Gang and the Army Gang. 

“While I’m frustrated about what’s going on, that did it for me. Because the reality is that little baby is not in a gang. That little baby isn’t doing anything wrong. But because of gang retaliation, back and forth fighting an innocent child became a victim,” Cobaris said. 

He showed up on the door step of the home where little Daquan Felix, Jr was killed and prayed with the little boy’s family.  Then he delivered his daily noon social media prayer from the corner of their street telling his followers that enough is enough.  “If this does not move you to action, if this does not move you to everybody that’s an authority moving to work together to do something, I don’t know what will,” Cobaris said. 

On Thursday, he said he reached out to Sheriff Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. 

RELATED: Sheriff: 3-year-old killed, 2 teens shot in gang drive-by shootings

“I know that in our climate today there’s a distrust between our community and law enforcement but this is the very way to bridge that gap through transparency,” Cobaris said.  He has offered to reach out to be a bridge between the deputies and the gangs. “If this community does not trust you. If these young men in the pathway of darkness don’t trust you and don’t see you as somebody who really cares for them. They will never listen to you about re-directing them to something different."

“They need to work shoulder-to-shoulder with stakeholders and community constituents in order to get things done. I really want to convey to him that it is important that when they have information, they need to get that to us immediately because three months later could have been three lives that had not been taken that it could have been prevented of dying if the community leaders and community constituents had been made aware that this is all tied to gangs," Cobaris added.

Mayor Demings issued a statement on Thursday afternoon saying  "the gang violence in recent days within unincorporated Orange County is troubling to me. Based on several conversations with clergy and community activists, I plan to announce a Citizen Safety Task Force in the near future. It will be citizen-driven and include representation from law enforcement."

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