An off-duty Albuquerque policeman and several church parishioners were credited Monday for their quick actions after they subdued a man who attacked the choir of a Catholic church.
As the St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church choir began its final hymn for the 11 a.m. Mass on Sunday, a man, later identified by police as Lawrence Capener, 24, jumped over pews and stabbed several singers. One parishioner who grabbed the attacker in a bear hug was stabbed repeatedly.
As the attacker fell to the floor, he was mobbed by other churchgoers.
During the melee, the assailant swung his knife “wildly,” according to a news release from the Albuquerque Police Department.
The choir's pianist, Brenda Baca King, told KRQE-TV that the attacker was looking at the lead soloist. "I just remember seeing him hurtle over the pews, hurtle over people and run [toward] us, and I thought, 'Oh my God, this is not good,' " Baca King said.
That’s when off-duty Officer Daren DeAguero sprang into action. He grabbed the assailant and placed him in handcuffs.
“The quick action by the parishioners and numerous off-duty public safety personnel clearly prevented a major tragedy,” Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz said in a statement. “We are grateful for the vigilance and bravery of those who undoubtedly put their lives at risk.”
Four parishioners were injured, including the choir director and a flutist, Gerald Madrid, police spokesman Robert Gibbs said. All four were treated at hospitals.
Three other church members were evaluated at the scene by members of the Albuquerque Fire Department but didn't go to the hospital, investigators said.
Capener was charged late Sunday on three counts with aggravated battery and ordered held on $75,000 bail.
The reason for the attack remained a mystery, police said.
Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan released a statement Sunday afternoon saying he was saddened by the attack. "This is the first time in my 30 years serving as archbishop in the archdiocese of Santa Fe and as bishop of Lubbock that anything like this has occurred," Sheehan said.
"I pray for all who have been harmed, their families, the parishioners and that nothing like this will ever happen again," Sheehan said.