Rev. Calvin Butts Says Afrika Owes Was Led Astray, Report Says

By Jeff Mays on February 21, 2011 7:23pm 

By Jeff Mays

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

HARLEM — The Rev. Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church told his congregation Sunday that Afrika Owes, the 17-year-old accused of ferrying guns for a Central Harlem gang, was "led astray," the Daily News reported.

"She was just led astray as so many have been," Butts told his church. "I'm asking for your prayers...save this young woman."

Owes, a former student at the prestigious Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, was charged last week with transporting guns for two gangs, "2 Mafia Family," also known as 2MF, and "Goons on Deck," which operated at 137th Street and Lenox Avenue.

Those who know Owes say they were extremely surprised that she was in jail facing such serious charges.

"There is a fair amount of surprise at hearing this because there was nothing to indicate she was involved in anything like this," David Thiel, director of communications for Deerfield Academy told DNAinfo last week. "She was a worthy candidate and had extremely compelling and excellent academic credentials."

"I'm very shocked about Afrika because she is such a sweet girl. I didn't think she was involved to that extent," said the Rev. Vernon Williams who works to help prevent young people from joining gangs.

Owes was a member of Abyssinian's youth ministry and its choir and her mother is still a member of the church, the News reported.

"We want to believe she was led into this. Our sense...is that she is not a drug dealer," said Butts, who said neither he nor the church condones drug dealing. "We're going to investigate this and see what we can do."

Some people in the neighborhood where the gang allegedly operated said groups of young people hanging out on the corner, as well as the sound of gun shots were not unusual.

"Everywhere around here there are groups of boys on the corner," said 36-year-old home attendant Tasha Johnson. "Hearing gunshots is normal."
Rev. Calvin Butts, seen with Hillary Clinton at a rally in recent years.
Rev. Calvin Butts, seen with Hillary Clinton at a rally in recent years.
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AP Photo/Kathy Willens

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