Parishioners Stop Armed Teen From Entering Children's Church Service: Police

A 16-year-old boy armed with a gun was blocked from entering a packed church service in Louisiana on Saturday, after fast-acting parishioners disarmed the teenager and called 911, authorities said.

St. Mary Magdalen Church in Abbeville was about halfway into a First Communion ceremony for approximately 60 children when the “suspiciously dressed” teenager entered the front vestibule with a handgun on his hip, the church’s pastor said in a statement recalling the ordeal.

“The church was full, with standing room only,” Reverend Louis J. Richard said Monday of the service, which was also being livestreamed.

A woman standing with her small children nearby saw the teen’s firearm and denied him further entry. A man at the church then disarmed and detained the boy as police were called, Richard said.

Members of the clergy were seen ducking behind an altar after a 16-year-old boy entered the church with a gun, authorities said.
Members of the clergy were seen ducking behind an altar after a 16-year-old boy entered the church with a gun, authorities said. St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church

In a video of the service posted online, a man interrupts the pastor and approaches him to whisper in his ear, prompting the pastor to calmly ask everyone to be seated and join him in prayer. Several uniformed law enforcement officers then enter the room, sparking a chaotic scene. Frightened churchgoers are seen grabbing their children and running while clergy members duck behind the altar.

“We did apprehend a young man. He is in custody,” someone eventually tries to assure the crowd off-camera.

The teenager on Saturday said he was there to stop a disturbed person who was planning to come to the mass to attack a priest, Richard wrote.

“Mass was stopped as law enforcement dressed in tactical gear, guns, radios, vests, and dogs entered the church building to search. As you can imagine, this caused fear and panic for a full church,” he wrote.

The Abbeville Police Department said it swept the building and confirmed that there were no threats or injured persons.

The suspect was interviewed by police, with a parent present, and transported to a local hospital’s behavioral unit for a medical evaluation. He is being charged with terrorizing and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile, the police department said in a statement.

“All those in attendance, the second graders, their parents, siblings, relatives, and guests, all experienced a traumatic moment, some much more directly than others,” Richard said.

The church said it will have uniformed law enforcement officers at its services going forward.

The incident comes a week after another man tried to shoot a pastor during a church service in Pennsylvania that was also being livestreamed, according to police there.