Church service at one New Mexico church ended abruptly Sunday afternoon when chorus members were suddenly attacked mid-song by a young man wielding a knife.
Witnesses at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church in Albuquerque said the suspect, 24-year-old Lawrence Capener, charged the church’s choir group after receiving communion, yelling “fake preacher” as he vaulted over pews and started stabbing wildly, wounding five church members, reported KOAT.
“I looked up and I saw a young man with a very scary look in his eyes — fury, anger, hatred,” said choir member Brenda Baca King. “He had a knife and was attacking our soloist, and our flutist tried to protect him and got stabbed also."
The flutist, 52-year-old Gerald Madrid, said Capener stabbed him four times in the back and once in the neck. His injuries were classified as critical.
“I just instinctively dropped my flute and charged the guy, and I got him into a bear hug and pinned him against the wall, but he was much taller than I am,” said Madrid. “I think he was trying to stab me more, but this time I was taking him down.”
Authorities reported that members of the church assisted in subduing Capener before law enforcement arrived on the scene. According to churchgoers, Capener was not a member of their parish, said authorities.
One victim besides Madrid was classified as critically injured, and three others are in stable condition and were taken to a local hospital for treatment. It was originally reported that only four members of the chruch were injured in the attack.
Parishioner Vanessa Lucero, 14, told the LA Times that the attacker appeared to be disturbed.
“[He] was kind of twitchy, sketchy-looking," Lucero said. "He had a tattoo of an upside-down star on his wrist."
Archbishop Michael Sheehan said this is the first time in his 30-year career an incident like this has occurred, reported KOAT.
“I pray for all who have been harmed, their families, the parishioners, and that nothing like this will ever happen again,” said Sheehan.
Capener was taken into custody Sunday and is facing aggravated battery charges. Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said the motive for the stabbings in not yet known.