- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2016

A pastor and city councilman of Fayetteville, North Carolina, said the power of prayer is what helped him calmly disarm a troubled veteran who burst into his church on New Year’s Eve carrying a semi-automatic rifle.

The unidentified man entered Heal the Land Outreach Ministries about 11:40 p.m. as City Councilman Larry Wright was delivering his sermon to about 60 people, the Fayetteville Observer reported.

Mr. Wright said the man was carrying the rifle in one hand, pointed up, and an ammunition clip in the other. He said he immediately left the podium to confront the stranger.

“He said, ‘I came here with some terrible things on my mind, I was going to do some bad things’,” Mr. Wright told a local NBC News affiliate.

He said church members started to panic and run for the door.

“I was very scared I had my granddaughter with me and I just automatically grabbed her and braced her head so if any bullets would fly, I’d get the bullets and not my granddaughter,” said Janice Johnson, a church member.

Mr. Wright, a former paratrooper and drill sergeant, said the man calmly shared that he’s a parolee and military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He explained that his wife had recently been diagnosed with a serious illness, and he was off his medication. Mr. Wright said the couple had also ran into financial troubles, and the man intended to use the gun to commit robbery, NBC reported.

“He got the gun because he was going to rob to get money,” Mr. Wright said. “He was going to do what he had to do to take care of his family.”

He said the man asked for prayers, and he was able to take the gun away as other church members came to embrace the man.

“When I told the congregation, its OK, he wants prayer and I began to pray for him, and the power of God hit and he fell to his knees and began to cry and weep and he had his face on the ground,” Mr. Wright said.

He said the man sat through the rest of the church service and later apologized to the congregation and professed his faith in Christ, NBC reported.

“God stepped in and he moved on that young man’s heart and instead of him shooting and killing a whole lot of people, God touched his heart,” Mr. Wright said.

Police department spokesman Lt. David McLaurin said the incident was reported as a “Call for Service.” The man was reportedly taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center at his request as a voluntary commitment, the Observer reported.

Mr. Wright said he never got the man’s last name before he was escorted away, but he hopes to contact him again.

“I want to follow up with him and see that he’s getting the help and resources he needs,” the pastor said.

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