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Brother of Mississippi Shooting Victim Speaks out

Aired July 9, 2003 - 20:15   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Turning now to the defense plant shooting in Mississippi, one colleague described the shooter as mad at the world. Today, authorities are looking for specifics to figure out why. Before he killed himself, Doug Williams walked out of an ethics and sensitivity training session, then allegedly shot 14 co-workers, killing five.
Reverend Christopher Cockrell is a Baptist minister whose brother Sam was killed in yesterday's shooting at the Lockheed Martin Plant in Meridian, Mississippi. He joins us tonight from Meridian.

Reverend, thank you very much for being with us. First of all, we offer our condolences. We're very sorry about what happened to you and others in your community.

REV. CHRISTOPHER COCKRELL, BROTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: Thank you very much for your condolences.

ZAHN: Where were you when you found out about the shooting?

COCKRELL: I was still in Louisiana. I was still in Slidell, Louisiana.

I received a call that morning from my mom that there had been a shooting. And I turned to CNN. And I was looking at how they were talking about it. I didn't put a lot into it at that time, because I was hoping, for the better, that nothing had happened to my brother. And we went on to lunch. I had an evangelist in town for the day. And I got the call while we were having lunch that he had been fatally killed.

ZAHN: The worst news anybody could ever get.

Let me ask you this. Doug Williams is a man who is being accused of killing your brother and the others. Did you know anything about him? Had your brother ever talked to you about him?

COCKRELL: I didn't know anything about him. My brother was very happy with the work environment that he worked with. He enjoyed working with a lot of his co-workers. I never heard him really complain about any type of situations that may have been occurring at work.

ZAHN: As you know, police haven't come up with a motive yet, as their investigation goes on. But there are a number of people who believe that these shootings were racially motivated. What do you believe? COCKRELL: I really can't say right now, because I don't know the individual. I don't want to think that it's a racial situation. I think it's more of just an individual who has problems. And a lot of people suffered because he has problems.

And one thing I really hope does not come out of this is that Mississippi was to receive a bad name for having a racist attitude. This is just the act of one individual, not the whole community, especially the community here in Meridian.

ZAHN: Reverend Cockrell, as you may know, there are several published reports that indicated there was some kind of issue between your brother and Doug Williams. Are you familiar with that?

COCKRELL: This is my first time hearing that.

My brother, I don't see him as a person that had issues with individuals. He was a morally good person. He always pushed to do what was right. So if there was any issues that he may have had with my brother, it was because that he was not trying to do the right thing.

ZAHN: Well, Reverend Cockrell, I know you have to do a lot of healing and you're also trying to bring the community back together. We wish you tremendous luck as you go through this horrible, horrible process.

COCKRELL: All right, thank you very much. And we want to definitely pray for all the family members who lost loved ones in this situation, especially the Williams family. They are, too, suffering, just as I'm suffering with the loss of my brother. And my prayers are with all of us. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Reverend, people -- not people who understand the depth of your convictions. I'm sure they would appreciate that. But do you understand why it might be hard for some people in the audience to say: Wait a minute, Reverend. Your brother was just killed at the hands of this man. How is it that you can forgive him?

COCKRELL: I have to forgive him because my brother and I both are Christians. And we both believed in our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. And we believe that a lot times, things happen in life that's not fair. And we can't carry grudges.

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my brother is with the lord now. And I'm really rejoicing in that. I can't allow myself to be bondaged of hatred and bitterness and revenge. It's over. It's over. And now the healing comes. And now God must be glorified through this. It's brought our family closer together. It's going to bring other families closer together. And I just don't know what all God's going to do through this, but he's going to a lot of great things, I'm sure.

ZAHN: Well, I hope so. Our thoughts are with you.

Reverend Cockrell, thank you again for dropping by tonight. COCKRELL: Thank you very much.


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