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Video: Potential mass shooting stopped by parishioners at Louisiana church

Police car is photographed in Norfolk, Va., (Kristen Zeis/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS)
May 14, 2024

A potential mass shooting was prevented as church parishioners stopped an armed teenager from entering a Louisiana church on Saturday as roughly 60 children were expected to participate in their First Communion.

According to the Abbeville Police Department, a 16-year-old male suspect was arrested Saturday morning after he tried to enter St. Mary Magdalen Church armed with a rifle. The Abbeville Police Department was notified of a “suspicious person with a gun” at roughly 10:35 a.m.

According to KADN, the incident at St. Mary Magdalen Church occurred roughly 48 minutes into Saturday’s service, which was being livestreamed. A video of the incident shows a man approaching Father Nicholas Dupre and whispering something into his ear. Dupre then told the church parishioners to sit while he started praying the Hail Mary.

While the priest remained calm, the church attendees started looking toward the back door of the church, where the armed teenager tried entering. Dupre and a church deacon were later recorded ducking behind the altar as the commotion intensified.

“The person was confronted by parishioners and escorted outside. Upon arrival, Officers arrested the suspect and placed him in custody,” the Abbeville Police Department explained. “Officers with the Abbeville Police Department and Vermilion Parish Sheriff’s Office made a sweep through the church to ensure there was no additional threat and confirmed that no one was injured.”

Witnesses of Saturday’s incident told KADN that the suspect was carrying a rifle and was dressed in black. The 16-year-old suspect was later questioned by the police department with a parent present and received a medical evaluation at the Abbeville General Hospital Behavioral Unit.

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In a statement explaining additional details behind Saturday’s incident, Reverend Louis J. Richard said the teenager was denied entrance into the service by a parishioner who noticed a “handgun on his hip.” Richard explained that another church attendee removed the suspect from the building while someone notified the police department.

The Abbeville Police Department noted that the teenage suspect has been charged with terrorizing and with two counts of firearm possession by a juvenile.

In a statement on Facebook, the Diocese of Lafayette wrote, “We are thankful to God that a tragedy was avoided at the First Communion mass for the children of St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville. The quick response of the Abbeville PD and alert parishioners is a great example of caring for the most vulnerable in our community. Let us pray for an end to all threats of violence to innocent human life.”

St. Mary Magdalen Church has announced that additional security will be put in place for future masses. Announcing the additional security measures, the church stated, “Out of an abundance of caution, we will have uniformed law enforcement at all upcoming Masses.”