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‘I know how real God is’: Would-be victim thankful for surviving Friday night crime spree

Elder Ronnie Upshaw speaks about being held up Friday night outside a tent revival in South...
Elder Ronnie Upshaw speaks about being held up Friday night outside a tent revival in South Jackson.(WLBT)
Updated: May. 15, 2021 at 10:30 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A local congregation is celebrating Saturday after they say God protected them from a man who allegedly went on a Friday night crime spree in south Jackson.

“It was the Lord... It had to be,” said Apostle Clayton Cowart. “You look at all of the individuals who were shot who he made contact with, and this one elder was spared… That’s nothing but the grace of God.”

Cowart was leading a tent revival on Monticello Drive when Jaden Hill allegedly pulled into the parking lot, got out of a stolen car, and held up Elder Ronnie Upshaw at gunpoint.

He said Hill demanded money but fled after Upshaw said he had nothing to offer him but the word of God.

Upshaw, a pastor and elder from Gainesville, was working security outside the tent.

“The hand of God is protecting me,” Upshaw said Saturday afternoon. “I know how real God is.”

Friday night, between 50 and 75 people had gathered for a tent revival outside of the Apostolic Temple Church of God The Bibleway on Monticello Drive.

Ironically, the revival was being put on in response to the city’s rise in violent crime.

Last year was the most violent year on record for Jackson in terms of homicides.

So far in 2021, 52 homicides have been reported in the capital city, including two on Friday.

The theme for the evening’s service was “Lord help us, a crazy man is in town.”

Several of those gathered saw the crime take place, but Cowart didn’t realize it was an attempted robbery until later. The two did not learn who the robber was until seeing the news Saturday morning.

The church reached out with Police Chief James Davis and Hinds County Sheriff Lee Vance after that.

For his part, the chief was equally thankful their story ended on a positive note. He said several others who had encountered Hill were not as fortunate.

“He carjacked a guy. He murdered someone. He shot an innocent lady. He had a shootout with police,” Davis said. “That (elder) did not become a victim because he used the word of God on him.”

Hill’s crime spree allegedly began with a triple robbery and homicide in the 3200 block of Lynch Street and ended with a police shootout on Cooper Road. On the way, police say Hill shot a woman at the Ellis Avenue Burger King and carjacked another person before he was spotted by officers in Precinct One.

Hill allegedly fired on the officers, but officers returned fire sending Hill to the hospital.

Davis said Hill was likely on drugs at the time. “When police came in contact with him, he appeared to be out of his mind, on heavy drugs and talking out of his head,” he said.

According to Chief James Davis, some of the guns were in the hands of convicted felons. He says...
According to Chief James Davis, some of the guns were in the hands of convicted felons. He says officers are doing everything they can to keep the citizens of Jackson safe.

He commended the church for its efforts and said if more religious leaders stepped up, the city could soon have crime under control. “If each pastor owned his own block, with all the churches we have in Jackson, I believe we (could) make a difference,” he said. “It was proven last night.”

Jackson has approximately 750 churches, according to the Religious Travel Planning Guide online.

One of the newest is on Monticello Drive, established by Cowart’s home congregation in Florida to help address crime in Jackson.

“We’ve been here in Jackson for four months,” Cowart said. “God led us here ... to deal with violence.”

The revival, which is just one of the ways Apostolic Temple hopes to address crime, will go on Saturday night and Davis said police will be providing additional security.

As for Upshaw, he said the incident doesn’t deter him from doing the Lord’s work. In fact, it makes him want to do more. He believes that with God’s help, there is hope for the man who held him up.

“That was me. I came up on the streets in Tampa, Fla. I had no direction, no male figure in my home. I started snatching purses. I robbed people. As I got older, I sold drugs... I ended up on drugs and got a 30-year sentence,” he said. “God delivered me.

“If there’s no hope, what are we doing?”

Services continue at 7 p.m. Saturday night at 3102 Monticello Dr.

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