Police are hailing a "heroic" pastor for tackling an armed man who threatened parishioners during a Sunday church service in Nashville, Tennessee.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Dezire Baganda, 26, pulled out a firearm while sitting in the front row of Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal Church on Sunday, and then walked up to the altar where the pastor was praying with several church members.
"Baganda told everyone to get up while he waved and pointed the handgun at the congregation," the statement said.
The pastor — identified by an ABC affiliate in Chicago as Ezekiel Ndikumana — quickly tackled Baganda before any shots were fired. Several church members jumped in to assist in disarming Baganda and holding him to the ground until police got to the church, the statement said.
"When I saw him looking this way and pointing the gun this way, I pushed the chair and I ran. He wanted to kill. That’s the first thing that came to my mind," the pastor told Nashville news outlet WREG.com. "I felt the feeling that I would go and grab him."
Cops praised the fearless takedown.
"The heroic actions of both the pastor and several of his parishioners saved a church from further violence," the Nashville police statement said.
Baganda isn’t a member of the church, but the pastor told authorities he had attended services before.
According to WREG.com, he attended the church a couple of months ago when members asked him to stop coming because he kept interrupting the pastor.
He was charged with 15 counts of felony and aggravated assault; other charges may be added, police said. Bail was reportedly set at $375,000.
The Washington Post reported in February 2020 that FBI statistics show a 35% increase in hate crimes at churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques from 2014 to 2018.
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