A man with a semi-automatic assault rifle walked into a downtown Fayetteville church during a New Year’s Eve prayer service and the man told the congregation the Lord had told him to go to church before he did something bad.
A Fayetteville city councilman says an armed stranger who walked into his church during a New Year’s Eve service handed over his rifle and prayed with the pastor before police arrived. 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 on senseless violence.
Wright, a 57-year-old retired soldier, said the man walked towards the front of the church carrying the semi-automatic rifle and an ammunition clip shortly before midnight. The pastor said he stepped down quickly from the pulpit when he saw the stranger, who appeared to be in his late 20s.
The minister said that if the man had shown signs of aggression he would have attempted to overpower him but explained that he was able to take the weapon from the man calmly. He then asked four deacons to hug the man, who fell to his knees and began crying. Remarkably, Wright then continued the service, inviting the man to sit in the front pew.
He told the Fayetteville Observer the man asked for salvation and “gave his life to Christ”.
One of the church deacons, Sylvester Loving, told the newspaper: “I think that night the spirit of God was definitely in the place.”
Wright says police were planning to take the man to a mental health facility.