A 24-year-old man suddenly jumped out of the pews and stabbed four people of the choir at a Catholic church in Albuquerque, N.M., as a Sunday Mass was nearing its end, police and witnesses said. The attacker was not a parishioner.
Lawrence Capener allegedly jumped over several pews at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church on Sunday morning, walked up to the choir area and began his attack, Albuquerque police said.
The four victims, including the choir's pianist, Brenda Baca King, were treated at hospitals. They sustained non-life threatening injuries.
Members, with the help of an off-duty police officer, overpowered Capener and held him down until police arrived.
Baca King told KRQE-TV the attack seemed directed at the lead soloist. "I just remember seeing him hurdle over the pews, hurdle over people and run towards us, and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is not good,'" she said.
"People were just panicking. It was scary, you wouldn't think something like that would happen in church," Reyes Stinson, 18, told The Los Angeles Times.
The motive behind the stabbing, which occurred as the choir had begun their closing hymns, remains unclear.
Parishioner Vanessa Lucero, 14, said she was sitting right behind the man, who "was kind of twitchy, sketchy looking. He had a tattoo of an upside-down star on his wrist… He said, like, 'False preacher!' I don't know why."
Lucero added, "Old ladies were telling him, 'God bless you, forgive yourself,' and he was saying, 'You don't know about the Masons.'"
Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman Tasia Martinez released a statement, saying, "He is currently being interviewed and will be facing numerous felony charges. It has been determined that he is not a parishioner. As to the motive regarding the multiple stabbing, this has not yet been determined."
Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael J. Sheehan said in a statement he was saddened by the attack. "I pray for all who have been harmed, their families, the parishioners and that nothing like this will ever happen again," he said.
Sheehan said an average of 4,000 parishioners attend Sunday services at the church.