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Candlelight vigil marks 2-year anniversary of James Andre Sims' murder

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
The Rev. Karen Jones, left, of Rainbow Temple shares her belief that holding grudges and bringing violence upon others — even when a loved one's life is lost to violence — only carries on an unloving culture of negativity and hate.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Wanda Sims protects the flame of a candle burned in memory of her son James Andre Sims during a Friday evening vigil at the intersection of Versailles Avenue and Pirl Street, where he was fatally shot. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

The Rev. Karen Jones of Rainbow Temple Assembly of God in McKeesport delivered a powerful message on the two-year anniversary of resident James Andre Sims' death.

“We do these vigils every year, but are we learning from them?” Jones said at a candlelight vigil on Friday. “Are we coming here with that same mindset, an eye for an eye? We want justice to be done, but the best thing you can do is to pray that person be caught. ... We're hurting here. The parents are hurting here.”

Andre Sims, 20, was shot several times, including once in the head, on July 6, 2012, while sitting in his black 2012 Dodge Charger at the intersection of Pirl Street and Versailles Avenue. He died five days later when family removed him from life support.

More than 50 people gathered at that intersection to remember the young man and pray with his mother, Wanda Sims.

Attendees later traveled from the intersection to Andre Sims' gravestone in McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery.

Flowers were laid by the stone, and people released paper lanterns and dozens of heart-shaped balloons into the sky.

“My baby was loved. There's a lot of love,” Wanda Sims said. “It at least gives me a smile. I've been crying all day.”

Andre Sims worked at Taco Bell and at Alorica's West Mifflin call center — where his mother worked, too — to support his new family.

“My baby was working two jobs and was off the night (he was shot),” Wanda Sims said. “He was out for a little while and never came home.”

His son Josiah was born 18 days after he died. Josiah lives with his mother in another town.

Wanda Sims recalled talking with her family the night before she made the emotional decision to take her son off life support.

“It's very hard. I kept asking God to help me help my son,” she said. “I had to let him go. I couldn't watch him suffer anymore. It's very hard watching your child (like that).”

Wanda Sims still travels in the vehicle in which her son was shot. The interior was redone and decals such as crosses were put on the back window.

She said driving the car, especially by the Pirl Street intersection, helps keep her son's memory alive.

“My baby's with me,” she said. “Every time I ride around in it, I (am not) letting (anyone) forget about my baby.”

No arrests have been made and no new evidence reportedly has come forth to law enforcement since July 2012.

Wanda Sims said people have talked to her about the crime, but they will not talk to police.

“Everybody knows. Don't tell me, call the police and tell them,” she said. “They all know who killed my son for nothing.”

Anyone with information about the shooting can contact county police at 412-473-3000.

Jones' late husband, the Rev. Earl Jones, presided over last year's memorial service for his nephew Andre Sims.

“I know Earl would say that he doesn't want you to harbor hate (or) bitterness in your heart,” Karen Jones said. “All you're doing for the person who did this is supporting them. To take someone's life and care nothing about it, there's something wrong with that picture ... When you take someone's life you shouldn't be able to go on in peace. You're going to think about what you have done, and you are going to answer to a higher person than me, than the family or anyone else here.”

Karen Jones went on to call for an end to the violence and a revival of togetherness.

“There's so many bullets flying here in McKeesport every day, and let me tell you those bullets have no names on them,” Jones said. “These young ones out here playing, it could hit any one of them. These little kids need to be growing up with something in their mind other than guns and violence.”

She called out families who knowingly benefit from criminal activity.

“Some of these parents know exactly what their kids are doing, and they're fine with it,” Wanda Sims said. “They need to handle their kids.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.