By Allison Brown
ASHTABULA, Ohio — Easter weekend came to a deadly end after police said a man shot and killed his father right outside of a church.
It happened at Hiawatha Church of God in Christ around 1:15p.m. Sunday.
At least 140 people were inside the church when everyone heard a gun shot. There were several children among the congregation.
“It was a nightmare,” said Steve Sargent, who is an associate pastor.
Police said an Ashtabula resident waited outside of the main entrance of the church with a handgun. When the suspect’s father walked out, there was a short fight and a shot fired.
Police said the church member died instantly.
“He was a loving man. He didn’t deserve to die,” said the victim’s step-daughter.
“He killed his own father at the entrance of the church,” said Sargent.
Church officials tell Fox 8 that when the shot rang out just after service ended, everyone inside reacted quickly. Some people hid in the church bathrooms, others tried to escape through windows as well.
“I knew at that point we couldn’t leave because our only point of exiting would have been where he was coming in,” said Sargent.
After the shooting, police said the gunman walked into the church and began talking irrationally about God and religion.
“The assailant came into the sanctuary. We had probably two or three dozen people in the building, a lot of little kids, still dressed up for Easter,” said Sargent.
The suspect was taken into custody quickly, and no one else was hurt. However, there was fear and confusion for everyone involved. Even police were prepared for the worst.
“Initially we were told there were multiple victims. Upon our arrival we found one victim, and we located the alleged shooter inside of the church,” said Chief Robert Stell, of the Ashtabula Police Department.
Police do have the suspect in custody, and they are not releasing his name until he is arraigned. The Ashtabula County coroner expects to release the identity of the victim on Monday.
Church officials are organizing an event this coming week so people can meet with counselors to talk about what happened.
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