DETROIT — A Detroit church service turned tragic Sunday when a man with a brick went after the pastor, but likely didn’t anticipate what would follow: the pastor pulled out a semiautomatic pistol and fatally shot the man, police said.
“They knew each other and had some type of problem before,” Assistant Detroit Police Chief Steve Dolunt said of the pastor and the victim. “When I got there, the body had already been moved. The pastor was in custody. We had the gun.”
The shooting happened at about 1:45 p.m., shortly after a 1:30 p.m. service got under way at the City of God storefront church on Grand River Avenue near Lahser, Dolunt said. The man with the brick never actually made it into the church, but went after the pastor in the vestibule, he said.
The pastor, whom Dolunt did not have a name for, responded with gunfire, shooting the man multiple times, including in the chest. The man died a short while later at Botsford Hospital.
According to Dolunt, a previous police report had been filed against the church intruder involving threats. He didn’t have further details. The pastor remains in police custody as investigators try to piece together what happened and interview church members.
“It’s tragic,” Dolunt said, noting that church violence is not new to Detroit, or anywhere else.
Sunday’s shooting comes four months after a gunman opened fire in a church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine people. Closer to home, in July 2014 an off-duty Detroit police officer who was working as a church security guard shot and killed an ax-wielding man at the Citadel Praise of Church. In 2012, Pastor Marvin Winans, a member of the famous gospel singing group, was carjacked and robbed at a Detroit intersection.
Detroit’s religious leaders have often been at the forefront of denouncing violence, though they haven’t said much about whether pastors, priests or clergymen should carry guns themselves.
In July, following a wave of fatal shootings that had hit Detroit at the start of summer, several faith leaders united to issue a plea to the community to help stop the violence.
“The countless killings. The lives being lost continually. We can’t have a summer of killing,” the Rev. Eddie Connor Jr. of Open Door Ministries International said during a meeting with local religious leaders. “We can’t have a summer where we’re burying or having these young lives being exterminated.”
The Rev. Norman Thomas of the Sacred Heart Church also weighed in, denouncing gun violence.
“The common good is the value that supersedes all other things. So when we witness our brothers and sisters who decide to settle arguments, who take revenge against other people by killing them, we have to stand up and speak out,” Thomas said in July. “We hope that those who are witnesses to these kinds of things will be able to say, ‘My loyalty is to all the people, my silence is intolerable, I’ve got to do something.'”