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Worshippers: Rain Peace On Us

Shocked youngsters are going back to their first full week of class work today at Westside Middle School, where two students allegedly shot and killed four classmates and a teacher.

Sunday sermons in Jonesboro tried to make some sense of the tragedy.

"We refuse to be paralyzed by fear," the Rev. Rodney Reeves said to a chorus of amens at Central Baptist Church. "Our God is so great and so good that he can take something so evil as the slaughter of innocence and turn it for good."

Reeves compared the devastation felt by Jonesboro residents to that of the Israelites whose temple was destroyed by invaders.

"Father, you know this is a hard time for us," he said. "These are our friends, these are our families. Please rain your peace upon us now."

Five funerals were held over the weekend, but a community memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday.

The First Baptist Church plans to distribute 250 stuffed animals, donated by a local Wal-Mart store, to Westside students, who will be encouraged to bring the cuddly bears and bunnies to the service at Arkansas State University.

"The idea is to give them something to hold," said the Rev. Bruce Tippit, one of a dozen scheduled speakers for the service.

President Clinton plans to address the service via videotape from Africa. Attorney General Janet Reno and Gov. Mike Huckabee plan to attend.

While the town's residents slowly started the long, painful climb back toward a normal life, an 11-year-old girl who was wounded in the barrage said Mitchell Johnson, one of the boys held in the shootings, had threatened to shoot her after she had broken up with him.

Candace Porter said Mitchell often talked about beating up other boys, so she thought little of it when she heard he was saying "something big might happen," The Jonesboro Sun reported Sunday.

Candace, a sixth-grade honor-roll student, said she knew little about Mitchell when she agreed to be his girlfriend about a month ago and that she did not feel responsible for his actions.

"I thought he was nice, and then I found out he was trouble," she told the newspaper. "He was always talking about fighting other people. He'd say he was going to beat them up the next day. He called one of our music teachers a bad name that I can't say."

Doctors removed a bullet from Candace's right side; it had penetrated little more than skin. She planned to return today to school, which was open Sunday for counseling sessions.

"I'm never going outside again," Candace told the newspaper. "I'll go out for recess, but not for a fire alarm."

Mitchell, 13, and Drew Golden, 11, and are being held on murder and battery charges while they await their next court appearance, on April 29.

Police say the two, dressed in camouflage and armed with rifles and handguns, ambushed classmates and staff members who stramed out of the school Tuesday after one of the boys triggered a fire alarm.

Police say the two then blasted 22 shots into the crowd during a four-minute barrage, taking the lives of Paige Herring, 12, Stephanie Johnson, 12, Britthney Varner, 11, and Natalie Brooks, 11. Ten people were hospitalized.

English teacher Shannon Wright, 32, who died shielding a child, might have been an intentional target.

Cindy Angel said her step-granddaughter and Stephanie Johnson had come home from school the day before the shootings and talked about threats Mitchell had made.

"He said he was going to kill the girl who had broken up with him, and the others who had made him mad and Mrs. Wright," Mrs. Angel said. "I didn't think much of it."

Jonesboro residents will hold a special memorial service Tuesday evening at 8:00 pm ET. Visit for live video coverage of the event.

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