The 60 members in attendance were startled. Until the church’s pastor stepped down from the pulpit.
A man, appearing to be in his late 20s and holding a semi-automatic assault rifle walked into a New Year’s Eve prayer service at Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville, North Carolina, announcing that the Lord had told him he needed to go to church before he did something bad.
The 60 members in attendance were startled. But the church’s pastor, City Councilman Larry Wright, stepped down quickly from the pulpit. “Can I help you?’’ he asked the man.
Wright, who is a 57-year-old retired soldier, 6-foot-2, and 230 pounds, said after the incident: “If he was belligerent, I was going to tackle him.”
The stranger was calm; Wright took the weapon. He then asked four deacons of the church to embrace the man, in an effort to make him feel loved.
It was 20 minutes before midnight, and Pastor Wright continued with his altar call. Someone called 911 and police arrived, but Wright asked them to stand off until the end of the service. He invited the man to sit in the front pew. At the conclusion of the service, the man came forward and asked for salvation.
The man was escorted away, but Wright hopes to contact him. “I want to follow up with him and see that he’s getting the help and resources he needs,” he said.
At the time, Wright was discussing gun violence. Allison Woods, a church member, was at the back of the church. “It didn’t seem real because it was like the scripture that our pastor was reading, it was like it came off the page,” she told CNN.