DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Officer Jason Raynor is still in critical condition after Daytona Beach police say he was shot last Wednesday night on the job.
Hundreds of people have pulled together since that night to help his family get through the difficult time but the shooting has also created division with some.
Two strangers are now trying to bridge the gap to help unite the entire community.
Willie Williams and Brooks Tomblin met in person for the first time Wednesday. They were connected by a mutual friend.
“I told him about what I wanted to put together and he said, ‘You need to speak with Willie Williams,’” Tomblin said.
The two come from different backgrounds: Williams is an assistant principal in DeLand and Tomblin is a financial advisor in Daytona Beach.
They have the same passion to create change, though.
“It’s going to start at the grassroots level. We’re not going to change things nationally but we’re going to change things here in Daytona Beach,” Tomblin said.
They both saw potential division in the community after Raynor was shot last week.
“We have a pretty great relationship, we believe, with law enforcement in Daytona Beach. We still have our challenges,” Williams said.
They’ve organized what they’re calling a “CommUNITY picnic” to give the community a space to have those conversations. Local businesses and city leaders have jumped in to help put it together quickly.
“When Brooks offered to me an opportunity to come together and have some real conversations and let the police department know we support you, but let every citizen and particularly the marginalized communities in Daytona Beach, we support you too,” Williams said.
It’ll start Saturday at 9 a.m. at the City Island complex outside Jackie Robinson Baseball Park. They ask those coming to bring a towel or chair and a game from their culture to teach someone from a different background.
“The challenge will be that you have to introduce yourself and make five new friends of a different race,” said Williams.
Originally, the two had a Unity walk planned as part of the event but said with holiday traffic, it would be safer to keep it in the park. They hope to have the walk in the near future, though.