Louisiana parishioners stop armed teen from entering church during children's First Communion

The teen suspect, a 16-year-old white male, was charged with terrorizing and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A 16-year-old male was arrested in Abbeville, Louisiana on Saturday after he attempted to enter St. Mary Magdalen Church armed with a rifle.

Police were called to the church at 10:35 am to reports of a "suspicious person with a gun," the Abbeville Police Department said in a statement.

Around 48 minutes into the service, a man approached Father Nicholas Dupre and whispered into his ear. Father Dupre told parishioners to sit and he began praying the Hail Mary. People began looking toward the back of the church, and the priest and deacon slowly ducked behind the altar.

"The person was confronted by parishioners and escorted outside," the department added. When police arrived, the suspect was arrested and a sweep was conducted of the building. No additional threats or injuries were reported.

The teen suspect, a 16-year-old white male, was questioned by police with a parent present and transported to the Abbeville General Hospital Behavioral Unit for a medical evaluation.

The teen has been charged with terrorizing and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile.

According to NBC News, the teen suspect attempted to gain entry to the building through a back door. Inside the church were around 60 children waiting to receive their first Holy Communion, the church said.

The Diocese of Lafayette said in a statement, "we are thankful to God that a tragedy was avoided at the First Communion mass for the children of St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville. The quick response of the Abbeville PD and alert parishioners is a great example of caring for the most vulnerable in our community. Let us pray for an end to all threats of violence to innocent human life."

Witnesses told KADN that the teen was dressed in black and was carrying a rifle. They also said that police were concerned about the potential for another armed person inside the building so they conducted a sweep.

"We did apprehend a young man," one officer told churchgoers inside. "He is in custody. Calm down and get next to your child and just go slowly."

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