At a church service Sunday, RayVell Carter was remembered as a father, aspiring Christian rap artist and a "diamond in the rough" — a man who was turning his life around.
Carter, 41, was shot Wednesday outside St. Albans Church of God in Christ in St. Paul as he left a Bible study session with family members. His death was St. Paul's 20th homicide of the year.
The Rev. William Land described his nephew as charismatic, a "man who could charm most people to believe and love him."
Carter had been attending church regularly for more than a year, Land said, after an earlier brush with the law landed him in prison. His Bible was found next to him after the shooting.
"Many people ask me, 'How do you cope?' " Land said to about 70 churchgoers. "If I focus on his death, I can't appreciate his life."
Carter's death comes amid a spate of violence in the city, including three murders in nine hours in early September.
Land urged the broader community not to retaliate, telling his congregation that hurting someone else could never make up for the pain of losing a loved one.
"Vengeance is the Lord's," he told the congregation, including several of Carter's family members. "We don't believe in retaliation."
Land said that in the days since Carter was shot, many people had called him to express disbelief that Carter had been killed near a place of worship.
"Would his death be less painful if it had happened somewhere else?" he said. "I don't think so, either."
Carmeletia Harris, a member of the congregation, said she appreciated Land's honesty about Carter's life, including that he had been in trouble. Although Carter had four felony drug convictions, his criminal record has been clean since 2012.
Harris said the fact that Carter was shot outside St. Albans shows that those responsible "have no respect for the church."
Police say a gunman shot at a group — which included Carter's young daughter — as they left St. Albans in the Summit-University neighborhood around 8:40 p.m. Wednesday. They don't believe the shooting was random.
The victim's father, who has a legal permit to carry, returned fire as his son ran away. Responding officers found Carter suffering from gunshot wounds to the abdomen. Carter died at the scene.
The Rev. David Looney, who played guitar during the service Sunday, called Carter a "diamond in the rough" whose talents were just starting to show. Carter hoped to make it in the world of Christian hip-hop, he said.
"We didn't know that God had other plans for his life," Looney said.
Destyn Land, the organ player and a cousin of Carter's, said Carter had been working on a song with the St. Albans church choir.
The violence has been tough on the community, he said: "We haven't [ever] experienced something like this."
Fatal police shooting
On Sunday afternoon, another group of more than 70 people gathered to remember Ronald K. Davis, 31, who was fatally shot by a St. Paul police officer Sept. 15. Police said Davis rear-ended the officer's SUV and got out of the car with a knife. He was shot following an altercation with the officer, authorities say.
Group members said they wanted to protest Davis' killing and what they described as police brutality in general, meeting at the Police Department's Western District station on Hamline Avenue.
"The fact is that Ronald Davis should be alive," said Jess Sundin of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar.
The protesters, who included members of groups such as Black Lives Matter and Breaking Free, then walked to a makeshift memorial near the site where Davis was killed.
Several carried a banner imploring St. Paul police to stop killing people of color. Others held signs demanding justice for Davis.
Davis was remembered as respectful, a "gentle soul" who had been married only four months. He had just finished one apprenticeship program and was due to start a second one, they said.
Chief Todd Axtell has said he'll release body-camera video Tuesday, "after the pertinent parts of BCA investigation are complete and Davis family has opportunity to view," according to a Friday post on the Police Department's Twitter account.
Erin Adler • 612-673-1781