SANTA ANA, Calif. (Gray News) - Police in California shot and killed a man, believed to have been distraught over a relationship, after he entered a Catholic church with a gun.
As officers responded to a call Sunday afternoon, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Santa Ana, California, flagged them down and reported a man with a gun inside the church, according to a police statement.
An officer immediately went inside the church and found the suspect, an adult male, at the altar with a handgun in his hand, the Orange County Register reports. The officer shot at and hit the suspect.
It’s unclear if the suspect fired at or threatened officers prior to the shooting.
The suspect ran from the church, making it about 100 feet, before he collapsed, according to the Register. Police found him down and unresponsive, and he was declared dead at the scene.
The suspect’s identity has not been released. Officers say they recovered a firearm from the scene.
A small group of people was inside the church at the time of the incident, but services were not underway. Police say no one, aside from the suspect, was injured; however, they believe the officers’ “actions likely saved others’ lives and/or prevented injury.”
“It’s tragic. It really is. Any loss of life, it’s tragic. In this circumstance, it’s a place of worship. People come here for comfort, spiritual healing, support, so for this to happen here, it’s traumatic for everyone involved,” said Police Chief David Valentin to the Register.
The incident was not intended to be a mass casualty shooting, and the church was not targeted, according to police.
Witnesses told officers the suspect was distraught and possibly suicidal, the Register reports.
“We understand he was distraught over a relationship,” said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. “We’re not sure if that’s why he was here.”
Police say there were reports of a possible second gunman, but they searched the church campus and nearby areas and found no other suspects or victims.
The investigation is ongoing.