Parishioners stopped teen with a rifle from entering church

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13 May 2024, 1:53 pm

Children were inside St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville, Louisiana, waiting to take their first Holy Communion, the church said.

Quote:
Churchgoers thwarted a teenager armed with a rifle from entering a Louisiana church full of children Saturday in a service that was being livestreamed, authorities said.

Police were called to St. Mary Magdalen Church in Abbeville, 20 miles south of Lafayette, at 10:35 a.m. when the 16-year-old suspect tried to get in via the back door.

Around 60 children were inside the Catholic church at the time waiting to take their first Holy Communion, the church said.

The church said in a statement that parishioners confronted the suspect and took him outside before calling the police.

A recording of the livestream, broadcast by multiple local news stations, showed a man approach the Rev. Nicholas DuPré after 48 minutes to whisper something. DuPré then stops the service and asks churchgoers to join him in prayer, as people audibly panic and some begin to scream.

Police officers can then be seen walking through the church, as boys run across the altar and the clergy take shelter. Someone is heard to say over a loudspeaker: "Guys, just get ahold of your children, go slowly. We did apprehend a child, he is in custody."

Abbeville Police Chief Mike Hardy said in a statement on Facebook that the suspect was "confronted by parishioners and escorted outside." Police then arrived and placed him in custody, before sweeping the church to ensure there was no further threat and there had been no injuries.

The suspect was arrested and later charged with terrorizing the church and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile. Witnesses told KADN of Lafayette that he was dressed all in black and armed with the rifle.

He was questioned at Abbeville Police Department, alongside a parent, before he was taken to Abbeville General Hospital's behavioral unit for evaluation, police said.

Police praised the quick-thinking bravery of the church congregation. Hardy offered thanks to the "clergy and parishioners of St Mary Magdalen Church for their quick response and remaining calm throughout this matter."

He also said the FBI and the Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office were involved in the ongoing investigation and thanked them for their assistance.

The communion event continued despite the disruption. "The joy that these kids experienced today upon receiving their First Communion is beyond words. Congratulations!" the church said on Facebook.

The church said in a statement issued by the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette that it thanked police and parishioners for their swift response.

The church now plans to have uniformed law enforcement officers outside its Masses from now on, "out of an abundance of caution," but urged anyone seeking a first Holy Communion to do so at the next available Mass.


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