West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James asks for a moment of silence before each City Council meeting.
Typically, the mayor asks attendees to contemplate macro or faraway tragedies such as the ever-mounting deadly toll of the coronavirus pandemic or the ravages of the war in Ukraine.
On Monday evening, however, he offered up a different set of tragedies upon which he wanted attendees to reflect.
“A couple things you might keep in mind,” James said. “One is the victims of senseless gun violence that occurred over the weekend. Ten people killed in Buffalo. We had another attack up in California at a church. Anyway, it’s just mind-boggling where our society seems to be going to.”
West Palm Beach had its own brush with tragedy on Friday when a former student at Dreyfoos School of the Arts was shot and killed by an off-duty West Palm Beach Police officer after the former student crashed his van through the gates of the school, struggled with staff members and raced toward classrooms.
Romen Phelps, a 2007 Dreyfoos graduate, had been struggling with mental problems, friends said.
As he did on Friday, James again praised the response of West Palm Beach police in preventing what he said could have been an even broader tragedy.
“I applaud the West Palm Beach police officers and the Dreyfoos School of the Arts personnel whose bravery, selflessness and quick response kept students safe and prevented further tragedy during Friday’s on-campus incident,” James said.
Latest on incident at Dreyfoos: Dreyfoos School intruder in hospital the night before for mental problems, friends say
Code red at school: ‘We are on a code red .. its real. I love you’: Dad rushes to Dreyfoos after daughter’s text
From USA Today: In Buffalo shooting, outrage grows as details emerge about white supremacist motive
By the end of the weekend, much of the nation’s attention was focused on the racial and political killings that occurred in Buffalo, New York, and in Laguna Woods, California.
On Saturday, an 18-year old self-described white supremacist drove several hours from his home in upstate New York to a predominantly Black community in Buffalo and opened fire at a grocery store, killing 10 people.
The killer, who complained in an online screed that white Americans were being “replaced” by non-whites in a deliberate effort to marginalize them, said he had specifically targeted Black victims. Pictures of the weapon he used showed it had anti-Black racial epithets scrawled on it.
A day later, in Southern California, a Chinese-American man walked into a church and fired at Taiwanese worshipers, killing one man and injuring five other people.
China and Taiwan have been locked in a long dispute over Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty, and law-enforcement officials said the killer deliberately targeted people with ties to Taiwan.
Federal officials are investigating both killings as hate crimes.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited with grieving families in Buffalo on Tuesday.
Prayer and candlelight vigil tonight in West Palm
West Palm Beach Council Member Shalonda Warren told attendees during Monday’s meeting that Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church is encouraging people to participate in a collective prayer and to light a candle in their window from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday in solidarity with those grieving the loss of those killed in Buffalo and Laguna Hills.
Council member Christina Lambert used her remarks on Monday to express solidarity with the Dreyfoos school community.
“My heart goes out to the student body and family of the Dreyfoos high school community,” she said. “They experienced an unfortunate incident at their school on Friday.”
Lambert said the shooting highlighted “the community’s need to support those with mental health illness, for all of us to talk about it like we would any other illness we might need to see the doctor for.”
Wayne Washington covers West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and race relations. E-mail tips to [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: West Palm mayor weighs in on Dreyfoos, Buffalo, Laguna Woods shootings