Popular Brooklyn Bishop Lamor Whitehead, who has often been criticized for being too flashy because he drives expensive cars and adorns himself with jewelry, says his family and congregation were left "traumatized" Sunday after multiple masked gunmen entered their church and stripped them of more than $1 million worth of jewelry before fleeing the scene.
"The women and children that were in my church, my daughter, she's traumatized. Right now, she's still not even talking because of that experience. They had the gun in my 8-month-old's face. The women of my ministry, my wife, everybody is traumatized," Whitehead revealed to his 1.6 million followers on Instagram and Facebook in the aftermath of the attack.
Information from the New York City Police Department cited by The New York Post said three masked gunmen burst into Whitehead's church at around 11:14 a.m. The video of the incident shows Whitehead quickly surrendering to the gunmen as they relieved him, his wife and their congregation of their precious stones.
Police sources told The New York Times that more than $1 million in jewelry was stolen.
"As I was preaching, I seen three to four armed men come in," explained Whitehead, who said he quickly indicated to his congregants that they should get down as the gunman entered.
"I didn't know if they just wanted to shoot the church up or were just coming for a robbery. And they were all black men. They had masks, and they came in, and they took all of my wife's jewelry and all of my jewelry," Whitehead said.
"When I laid down on the floor and the young man came, the young man came and put the gun into my back, as you all see on the video. He took my watch, took my jewelry, took my bishop's ring, took my wedding band, and then they took my bishop's cross, and then I had my other chains underneath my shirt. And he tapped my back … and ripped my collar off just to get to my jewelry."
The New York City preacher, who said he turned his life around after an unfortunate encounter with the legal system and life in the streets, says he has been using his ministry to help his community, including gang members. But he said his ministry had been coming under attack from Satan recently.
"The enemy has been attacking Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries for some time now. I don't put all of my business out, but we are a young, thriving ministry that we connect not only with the church but we connect with the streets. We connect with people that need help. I've helped so many gang members, so many just regular people in this ministry," he said.
Whitehead, who has in the past received support from NYC Mayor Eric Adams, was arrested in 2006 for a $2 million identity-theft scam. He served five years in prison but was released in 2013. He claims he was "falsely convicted and arrested for a crime I did not commit." The Brooklyn pastor had been sentenced to 11 1/3 to 34 years in prison for the crime.
"A few weeks ago, I was troubled with a phone call that there were speculations that there were guns in my church, and I had to let my attorney go handle that and deal with that. And I don't know if this is connected, but it is what it is," Whitehead said.
The pastor said that when the gunmen entered, they did not factor in that cameras would be recording. While he appealed to the public to help the NYPD catch the gunmen, he expressed faith that God's justice will prevail.
"I'm going to be straight with you guys. Everybody that knows me from the streets, you all know who I am. And if you have any information, inbox me because I'll rather them turn themselves in because those are the material things. It was hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry that was taken from me. And I say hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they knew it because they've been watching," he said.
"I need you all to understand who I am in the body of Christ. I don't care if you don't like me … but when you are anointed by God, when you are appointed by God, God will avenge. I don't have to do anything. God will avenge. That's why we know what car you were in, and that's why we know what you already look like," Whitehead said in his message to the gunmen.
Whitehead, who took many long pauses to restrain his anger, pointed to his history of being around criminals. He said that he had never been the victim of a robbery before the attack at his church on Sunday.
"To run inside of a church where all we do is praise the Lord, you can't say, 'I'm gangster this, I'm gangster that.' I'm in the church, preaching, right? If this would have happened in another setting, then it's still wrong. It is what it is. But to come into a church and to traumatize young women and children, the children are still crying, the women are still crying, my wife is crying. You did this to the church. The church where I'm sure your grandmother praised God," he said.
"You all brought guns in the church to do harm and to take something from a man of God and a woman of God," he added.
"I've been on these streets a long time, and ain't nobody never take nothing from me," he said after a long pause. "When I went to prison illegally, and they sentenced me to 11 1/3 to 34 years, ain't nobody take nothing from me. I was around every gangster, murderers, robbers, gang members. Ain't nobody never take nothing from me. And you all wait till I have a collar on in the pulpit preaching the word of God, preaching deliverance."
The attack on Whitehead's church came about two months after thieves decapitated angel statues and ripped a centuries-old solid gold tabernacle worth $2 million from the altar of St. Augustine Catholic Church, located at 116 6th Ave. in the Park Slope section of the New York City borough. The attack on that church happened when no one was inside.