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    Louisiana parishioners stop armed teen who entered children’s church service

    By Edward Helmore,

    St Mary Magdalen church has said that uniformed officers will be posted at upcoming masses. Photograph: Lumigraphics/Getty Images

    A 16-year-old has been charged with one count of terrorizing and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile after entering a church service in Abbeville, Louisiana, where 60 children were receiving their first holy communion.

    Police have confirmed that “the person was confronted by parishioners and escorted outside” before being taken into custody.

    Police have not released details about the teen, described as a white male, his possible motive, the gun or how he got it, but local reports said he was dressed in black and armed with a rifle.

    According to the Abbeville police department, the teen entered through the back door of St Mary Magdalen Catholic church on Saturday, about 20 miles (32km) south of Lafayette, and was confronted by parishioners.

    “There were several folks here in the community who in the face of the terrifying situation stood their ground and wanted to make sure the community was safe and didn’t think of themselves in the least and put themselves in harm’s way,” the youth ministry leader John Listi told the Washington Post .

    Related: Louisiana supreme court to rehear case on letting child sexual abuse victims sue

    Listi told the outlet that the church community was shaken up and anxious but would “emerge from this stronger than ever”.

    A recording from the local TV station KADN shows events unfolding as Listl, about to give communion, is informed of the intruder and asks congregants to be seated and to pray. Then the sounds of children screaming are heard and a police officer enters the frame and draws his weapon.

    Altar boys are seen running across the chancel behind the altar and a voice comes over the speakers: “Listen, guys, just get a hold of your child. Go slowly. We did apprehend a young man. He is in custody. He is in the police custody. Calm down and just get next to your child and go slowly.”

    St Mary Magdalen church has since said that uniformed officers will be posted at upcoming masses.

    Police said the teen was questioned with his parent present and transported to the behavioral unit of Abbeville hospital and later charged.

    But the incident raised inevitable fears of a repetition of mass killings that have upended aspects of public life in the US, including worship.

    In 2015, nine Black parishioners were killed at a church Bible study in South Carolina by a self-described white supremacist; two years later, a gunman used a rifle to kill 25 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In 2018, a man killed 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

    After the incident on Saturday, Abbeville’s mayor, Roslyn White, said she was grateful for the “brave, diligent individuals who kept our community safe under threat and the officers who remained focused under unimaginably stressful circumstances”.

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