Members of Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana, California, are thanking God for their pastor being alive after he was stabbed seven times in a random attack outside his home that left him with significant injuries, including two punctured lungs.
Kelita Hull-Gardner, executive director of operations for the church, explained in a statement posted on the church’s Facebook page that her pastor, the Rev. Ivan S. Pitts, was attacked at about 8 a.m. Thursday outside his home in Long Beach by a man he did not know.
“The doctors are claiming him to be very lucky, but we know luck has nothing to do with his survival,” Gardner said in her statement.
“Pastor Ivan Pitts was randomly approached by a man in his driveway. The man commenced to stab the pastor 7 times; in his left eye, back and shoulder/neck. Both lungs were punctured, bones in his eye socket and shoulder were broken,” she explained.
Gardner further explained to ABC7 in an interview that the pastor’s attacker, who is now in police custody, “approached the pastor and asked him if he could ask a question and when he acknowledged him, he stabbed him seven times. Twice in the eye, four times in the back and once in the neck, shoulder area.”
Pastor Pitts, who is a married father of four, went on to get surgery to repair three cuts to his left eyelid and a tendon. He was recovering in “great spirits,” according to a Sunday update from the church in which he declared “I am so fortunate.”
Pastor Ralph Williamson of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine told ABC 7 that he and Pitts are members of a coalition of pastors who were set to meet at 9 a.m. Thursday. The attack, he said, has devastated the community.
"We received a long text message stating what had happened, that Pastor Pitts has been attacked in his own driveway following his return home and he was stabbed several times. It devastated us," said Williamson.
Gardner told ABC 7 that her pastor ran to a nearby construction site to get help after he was attacked, and workers got a picture of the man's license plate. The suspect’s car was later found by Huntington Beach police and he was arrested.
Authorities intend to charge the suspect with attempted murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and felony vandalism.
Williamson explained that he has been communicating with the pastor frequently via text. He noted that despite the attack, the pastor is "going to be alright."
Gardner said the pastor’s family is supporting him in the hospital and urged the church community to limit calls and texts to the family.
“If you desire, the family has asked that cards and flowers be sent to the church,” Gardner said. “They’ve requested to please give them space to process and heal by avoiding calls and texts at this time.”