Message to Internet Venues: Stop the Internet Death Threats and Deliberate Attempts to Incite Violence

 

I’m going to do something that I said I would not do.

Less than 24 hours ago, I was involved in a behind-the-scenes discussion of the vile reactions to the Hobby Lobby decision that were taking place on the internet. I said — and I meant it — that I was not going to write about this trash.

The reason? Satan brought this beast to life, and I, for one, don’t want to feed it.

Now, I’m going to do a 180 and do that thing I said I wasn’t going to do. I am going to talk about the satanically-inspired things being said.

The reason?

I read a call for help from Jennifer Lahl, founder and president of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. I have worked with Mrs Lahl on legislation. She is publicly involved in fighting commercial egg harvesting and surrogacy. Evidently, Mrs Lahl has been receiving what amount to death threats.

I’ve decided to write about these threats. I can’t let this go unchallenged.

There were, at least in some dirty little corners of the internet, comments directly inciting violence against Hobby Lobby. What I saw was one person after another calling for specific acts of violence.

I want to make this clear. These were calls to commit crimes of violence against this business. They were explicit and repetitive. They were direct calls to do violence with specific types of violence being named. Every action these commenters were calling for was both a felony in itself and potentially murderous to large numbers of people.

The threats directed against Jennifer Lahl were also explicit. In fact, they were even more explicit, naming the weapon and the method. They were implied death threats, made in graphic terms.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that you have to take people at their word about these things. Words precede actions. My advice to the police is that if anything happens in either of these situations you already have your “persons of interest.” Just look at the people making these threats.

Slander and personal excoriation have become so rife in our society that we no longer recognize them for what they are. We’ve gotten to the point that we think this kind of verbal debauch is normal. Are death threats and calls for violence against persons the downward trend toward a new normal?

I am writing this post to call on other bloggers and people who publish on the internet to accept that they are responsible for what they allow on their publications.

I am not talking about a random comment that got through by accident. I am referring to one call to commit violence, one death threat, after another. If your outlet has become a venue for issuing calls to commit crimes of devastating violence, you need to do something about it. 

Do not wait until a tragedy occurs and then make sanctimonious statements to the press to excuse yourself. Because if that happens, I, for one, won’t be buying it.

Conversion Story: Finding Jesus in Prison

 

Those who are forgiven much, love much.  Jesus Christ

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Guns. Blaming Father Terra for Trying to Defend Himself. And Raising Up Psychopaths.

I’m proud of you.

Public Catholic readers have not gone off the deep end, blaming Father Joseph Terra for the actions of the man who beat him and shot and killed his brother priest, Father Kenneth Walker.

Father Terra, a Catholic priest, was critically wounded when an assailant broke into the rectory in Phoenix that he shared with Father Walker. Father Walker was shot and killed. It seems that the assailant managed to get his hands on a gun owned by Father Terra, and that is the gun he used to shoot Father Walker.

Public Catholic readers have not attacked Father Terra for being a victim, and I’m proud of you. There has been a focus on the gun in our discussions here, which, I think is still a mis-direction. After all, Mr Gary Michael Moran, the individual who has confessed to this break-in/beating/murder was paroled just two months ago and he wasn’t in prison for singing too loud in church choir on Sunday morning.

Mr Moran has a long history of violent assaults. He was paroled for crimes that were quite similar to the one he committed against these two priests.

If we are so intent on blaming someone besides Mr Moran for this assault, we might look past Father Terra and take a gander at the parole board who put him on the street. Or, to dig a bit deeper, how about considering the lawmakers who wrote the laws that allowed the parole board to put him on the street? Or maybe we should blame Mr Moran’s mother/teacher/neighbor/dog for the crime.

Or, then again, maybe we could take a quick look at Mr Moran himself. Does anybody besides me think that he’s the guy who did this and he’s the one we should hold responsible?

Just sayin’.

Public Catholic readers have discussed this intelligently. But what about those other folks, the ones who are all but accusing Father Terra of being the miscreant in this situation?

It appears that the lightning rod in this is the gun. We’ve got a group of people in this country who are a little nutty when it comes to firearms. They consistently make inaccurate connections between criminal acts and the gun the criminal uses rather than looking at the criminal him or herself. You’d think, the way they talk, that guns had minds and souls and the ability to act on their own.

Every time we have another of these random mass murders — and they come along with regularity these days — when someone who is loaded down with weaponry goes to a public place and starts killing everybody he can, we see people denouncing the gun laws. Nobody seems to be brave enough to ask what we are doing to manufacture these killers in the first place.

What we have is a relatively new phenomena which has been escalating over the years until it is becoming a commonplace. The gun laws were actually much more liberal before this phenomena took hold than they are now.

I’ve read grisly stories about mass killings in other countries — one in China comes to mind — with very strong gun control laws that occurred when someone armed with a knife or axe invaded a school or other public place and, true to type, started killing everyone they could. I know people who’ve been in buildings that were bombed by terrorists. I also know someone who was crippled for life in a drive-by shooting where the assailant used a gun made with a piece of pipe.

I know this is going to make people angry, but guns are the means, they are not the reason. Banning guns, even banning them altogether, won’t fix this. Guns are not the problem.

We are.

The problem here is not the implement of destruction. The problem is our unwinding society and the feral young people we are raising up inside it. I’ve said this before to a chorus of “not trues” but we are manufacturing psychopaths in our society. Somewhere back in the not-too-distant past, we changed our methods of raising people and the result has been a growing number of mass murders, and a much larger number of random killings, drive-by shootings and other violence on a more individualized scale.

There have always been murderers. It does back to Cain. But this is different. And it’s international. And it’s getting worse.

How does this apply to the blame-Father-Terra viciousness that’s out there glopping around in the internet hive mind?

The blame-Father-Terra crowd is part of the problem. Their self-righteous refusal to think straight and their vicious verbiage misdirects our energies away from dealing with the situation at hand. I think a lot of it is deliberate so that we won’t have to accept responsibility and change our ways.

The situation at hand is that Father Terra is a wounded individual who has suffered an unjust, unwarranted and totally preventable attack from an individual who should never have been out on the streets in the first place. He is being blamed for attempting to defend himself and his brother priest.

What I think happened — and this is just a guess — is that Father Terra didn’t have what it took to pull that trigger. He probably wanted to use the gun to intimidate the attacker, not kill him. He is not a killer and he was doing battle with a man who is a killer. I think it was as simple as that.

Good, normal people are always at a disadvantage in these situations where they are savagely attacked without warning. The attacker knows what they are doing, they’ve got the advantage of surprise. Plus, they are bad. Bone deep bad. They don’t mind killing. They’ve come into this situation ready to hurt and to kill.

Mr Moran has a history of hurting people in violent assaults. He’s used to it. He doesn’t mind it. He went into that rectory with that intention. He is practiced at hurting people. He was also awake.

Father Terra was wakened from sleep, and almost certainly intending to handle things without killing anybody. Father Walker just woke up and came to his friend’s aid.

Yet they are the ones we are blaming. Them, and of course, the gun.

Meanwhile, the man who did all this, we’re just kind of ignoring. Because that’s our way. We ignore the offender and blame the victim — or those who try to aid the victim.

You know why? Because facing the real truth of this would mean that we would have to acknowledge that we can’t toss our kids around like things; that children need stable homes and safe families in which to grow up and we haven’t been providing them.

There is also the desire to avoid the other fact. We can’t disarm these monsters once we build them. We blame the victim because we’ve figured out on some level we don’t want to admit that most of the Mr Morans in this world aren’t fix-able. By the time a person gets to the level of repeat violent offender we can’t rewind them back to harmlessness. We can lock them up. Or, we can let them out and then blame the victim when they do it again.

But we can’t fix them.

It seems more productive to blame the victim and the gun, and maybe the lack of an alarm system or the slow response at 911, than to face the very difficult fact that we are manufacturing these guys with the way we raise our kids and that once we’ve manufactured them, they don’t have an off switch.

We can take away every freedom we have and lock ourselves into lockboxes and we still won’t be safe. if we want to stop these things, we’ve first got to face facts. And the fact is that we are building the Gary Michael Morans ourselves. If we want to stop having so many of them, we’ve got to stop building them.

Nothing else will work.

The Skunk Stinks.

Who needs this?

Who is it going to be used against?

Those are the questions that the Skunk brings to mind. I’m not talking about a beautiful little animal with that possesses a massive olfactory defense system. I am talking about a drone that possesses a massive offense system, and that has been developed and is being marketed for use against civilians by corporations.

The Skunk is, as I said, a drone that is designed for what is euphemistically being called “riot control.” It possesses the ability to monitor people and then fire pepper spray and rubber bullets at them. What no one mentions is that a drone that can fire pepper spray and rubber bullets can also fire any other type of spray as well as bullets made of lead.

It turns out that the corporatist interests in South Africa plan to put the aptly named Skunk to work, protecting their mines. The first 25 Skunks will be delivered to the African mining industry this month. It was developed by a South African company named Desert Wolf.

If all this sounds like a comic book to you, I’m with you. This company is seriously named Desert Wolf???

And they developed a weapon to be used by corporations to protect their interests called the Skunk???

It would be funny, except there’s nothing funny about the potential of the Skunk. It is a drone designed to monitor and attack civilians and it is being marketed to corporations in troubled parts of the world for their private use. Frankly, this device does not belong in civilian hands. It certainly does not belong in the hands of corporatist interests. I’ve had enough dealings with corporatists in the political arena to be convinced that respect for human life, human dignity or just plain human beings is not in them.

They’d kill grandma for a quarter and claim it was free enterprise and capitalism. Then, they’d call grandma’s relatives who objected a bunch of radicals and commies.

Corporatists are down there in the moral swamp with abortionists and human traffickers. They give a whole new dimension to the word “amoral.”

The idea of corporatists with fully armed Skunks and free reign to use them is chilling.

From The Blaze:

Los Angeles hockey fans proved last week that even the friendliest of drones can get a nasty reception from rowdy crowds. But the booze-fueled celebrants may have reacted even more violently if they encountered this drone.

The Skunk is billed as the first riot-control drone: It fires pepper spray, rubber bullets and dye-balls at protesters; blinds them with strobes; and broadcasts audible warnings, all while keeping its all-seeing eye trained on the crowd and recording their actions.

The octocopter is a product of the South African company Desert Wolf. Armed with four paintball guns and ammunition hoppers, it can fire a variety of ammunition to subdue or disperse unruly crowds, or simply mark certain people in the group.

The Skunk is designed to control crowds without endangering the lives of security staff. Bright strobe lights, on-board speakers and “blinding lasers,” the company boasts, enable operators to communicate with and warn the crowd.

But if they don’t respond, look out.

“The Skunk is equipped with four high-capacity paint ball barrels firing at up to 20 bullets per second each, with 80 pepper bullets per second stopping any crowd in its tracks,” Desert Wolf says on its site. “The current hopper capacity of 4000 bullets and high-pressure carbon fiber air system it allows for real stopping power.”

According to Defence Web, payload capacity of the unmanned aerial vehicle is roughly 88 pounds but since the gun assembly weighs just over 30 pounds, the aircraft has an excess of power. And Desert Wolf has found its first customer for the intimidating machine: South African mine owners, hoping to control crowds of workers.

God Bless Father Terra

My heart goes out to Father Joseph Terra.

He has to heal from grievous injuries, but that’s the least of it, really.

He also has to heal in his wounded heart. He will live with the trauma he has suffered personally, and also from the additional trauma of seeing his brother priest die in front of him, for a long time to come.

Survivors of violent crime are often saddled with guilt of all types.

Why didn’t I fight harder? Why didn’t I call the police? Why didn’t I do this or that or the other? They ask themselves these questions over and over until the questions themselves become a wound, a source of shame and grief.

There are other questions, as well. Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why would anyone do this? And the companion questions: Why did I survive? Why am I alive when others are dead?

Father Terra did all he could. In fact, he was heroic. But, good man that he is, he is also bound to be attacked by the questions that keep coming in the middle of the night, the first moments after waking, when he sees a television show that reminds him.

He will wake up at the hour it happened for a long time to come. He will be struck with panic and sudden memories that feel like he’s reliving it. He will face, over and over and over again the endless repeating memory of Father Walker, coming to help him, the sound of the gunfire, the death of his friend.

It doesn’t stop because the victim wants it to stop. It doesn’t stop because people tell them they were heroes and to let it go and get over it. It simply doesn’t stop.

These thoughts punch holes in a person. They drain away self-worth, peace of mind and trust. Everything depends on how people treat the victim of a violent crime in the first days, weeks and months after the event. In that, I think Father Terra is blessed. He is surrounded by loving people who want to help and honor him.

Father Walker is in heaven. I don’t doubt that. He is probably praying for the man who killed him. I have little doubt that he is also praying for Father Terra as he makes his way through the pain and grief of what has happened.

Father Terra will never be able to rewind this tragedy. He will always be the man that this happened to. But he can, with time and God’s grace, make it into something good. He is a priest, which means he is a conduit of God’s grace. He is now also the victim of a senseless violent crime. The Holy Spirit can combine those two things in wonderful ways.

I pray for Father Terra. My heart goes out to him. I hope that God uses him and this tragedy to give new hope and healing to many lost souls who need it.

 From ABC15:

PHOENIX – On Monday morning, Father Joseph Terra, a victim from last week’s attack at a Phoenix church, made his first public appearance.
Terra didn’t speak at Monday’s Requiem Mass service.
Father was in a wheelchair and hands were bandaged up. Severe lacerations were evident on his head.Father Terra was beaten so severely, he was brought to the hospital in critical condition.
Around a thousand people packed into Saint Catherine of Siena Monday for a requiem mass service in honor of murder victim Father Kenneth Walker.

Police Release Tape of 911 Call in Priest Shooting

This is hard to listen to. I didn’t make it through the first time. However, it reveals what a brave man Father Joseph Terra is. I’m posting it for that reason.

It’s the 911 call Father Terra made after the shooting death of Father Kenneth Walker at the rectory they shared. Father Terra was critically injured himself.

Public Catholic reader Ken noted in a comment, and I’ve read myself that Father Terra gave last rites to Father Walker at that scene. It is quite clear from listening to this tape that Father Terra was pushing himself heroically to answer the responder’s questions and do what she asked. I do not know how he managed to give Father Walker CPR, considering how injured he was himself.

After listening to this tape, I just wanted to hug him.

If you want to hear the tape, go here.

From ABC 15 Arizona:

PHOENIX – Phoenix police have released the 911 call made just moments after a Valley priest was murdered Wednesday night .

Investigators are still searching for solid leads after Rev. Kenneth Walker was killed and Rev. Joseph Terra was critically injured at a Roman Catholic church in a gritty stretch of downtown Phoenix.

Terra called 911 around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and administered last rites to the wounded Walker while waiting for police to arrive.

Police Arrest Suspect in Fatal Priest Shooting. Suspect had Been Out of Prison for Two Months.

Gary Michael Moran has been charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Father Kenneth Walker, Associate Pastor at Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic Church in Phoenix AZ.

Mr Moran has also been charged with first degree burglary and armed robber with a deadly weapon. He was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to a van which was stolen during the robbery/murder. It sounds as if Mr Moran may have confessed to the crime since an article from KTAR.com says that he told police that he “shot one of the priests after the man came to the aid of the priest struggling with Moran in a hallway.”

It appears that Father Walker attempted to help the parish’ Senior Pastor, Father Joseph Terra, when he was being attacked by Mr Moran. I’ve read that Father Terra gave last rites to Father Walker after he was shot. Father Terra called 911. He told the dispatcher that Father Walker was not breathing at that time.

From KTAR.com:

PHOENIX — Bail was set at $1 million Monday for the man accused of fatally shooting one priest and brutally beating another at a Phoenix church.

Gary Michael Moran, 54, was charged with the first-degree murder of Rev. Kenneth Walker at Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic church near 15th Avenue and Monroe Street last week.

Rev. Joseph Terra was also attacked, but survived. He is expected to recover.

Police arrested Moran late Sunday based on DNA evidence lifted from a van belonging to the church that was taken from the site but found several blocks away.

Moran also was charged with first-degree burglary and armed robbery with a deadly weapon. In court documents, Moran told police that he shot one of the priests after the man came to the aid of the priest struggling with Moran in a hallway.

Walker was shot with a gun that was inside a rectory bedroom.

According to the state’s Department of Corrections website, Moran had been in prison on aggravated assault charges from 2006 until late April.

Boko Haram Leader Takes Credit for Abducting School Girls. Says They are His Slaves and He will Sell Them.

 

Who funds Boko Haram? 

“They are slaves and I will sell them because I have the market to sell them.”

Those are the words of Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram.

Mr Shekau was talking about the large number of high school girls that his followers abducted April 15 from their school after a firefight with government troops.

He recently released a video in which he takes responsibility for the mass abduction and says the students “will remain slaves with us.”According to a Fox News article that statement is a reference to the jihadi custom of enslaving women captured in a holy war, who then can be used as sex slaves. Mr Shekau threatened to attack more schools and take additional girls in the same video.

Reports had emerged before the video was released that Boko Haram had forced some the girls to marry after being sold for a bride price of $12.

Two of the girls are said to have died of snakebite and 20 others are reported to be ill. The Christian girls have been forced to convert to Islam.

Protesters all over Nigeria have expressed anger at the government’s failure to find the abducted girls. President Jonathan Goodluck issued a statement Sunday night saying that his administration is doing everything possible (to find the girls.)

Boko Haram gunmen raided a Cameroonian police unit that is near the Nigerian border today. They killed a police officer and freed one of their jailed comrades.

From Fox News:

An Islamic extremist leader has threatened to sell the 276 teenage girls his terror group abducted from a school in northeast Nigeria three weeks ago.

In a videotape screened by the Associated Press Monday, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the April 15 kidnappings for the first time. He also threatened to attack more schools and take additional girls.

“I abducted your girls,” said the leader of Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful.”

He described the girls as “slaves” and said “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.” The hour-long video starts with fighters lofting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great.”

Oklahoma Stops Botched Execution. Inmate Dies Anyway.

 

Oklahoma seems to be having trouble executing people.

First, attorneys for death row inmates got a judge to agree that their clients could not be executed because of an Oklahoma law that grants anonymity to the companies that supply the toxic brew of killer drugs used to kill the prisoners.

Once the state got past that roadblock, it had to call off an execution in progress because the needle in the inmate’s arm was evidently putting the killer drugs into the surrounding tissue instead of the bloodstream.

According to the doctor who was in attendance at the execution, the vein in convicted murderer Clayton Lockett’s arm which was being used to administer the drug “blew.” The first indication that the “drugs were not having an effect” was when the inmate didn’t die. The doctor checked and found that they were going into the surrounding tissues in Lockett’s arm instead of the vein. At that point, officials halted the execution.

Lockett died 43 minutes later of what has been termed “an apparent heart attack.” I’m no doctor, and I’m just guessing, but my guess is that since the drugs went into muscle and fatty tissue instead of the bloodstream, it took those drugs longer to kill Mr Lockett, but that he ultimately died of their effects.

The first drug was supposed to make Mr Lockett unconscious almost immediately. According to witnesses, he was still awake seven minutes after the drugs were administered. Sixteen minutes into the execution, when he should have been long dead, he moved his head and tried to talk. Then, according to his attorney, he began to convulse.

I don’t favor the death penalty. However, I don’t question that Mr Lockett was a cold-blooded murderer. He should have been locked up and forgotten; no parole, no question of parole, no interviews or sad stories about his wasted life.

I think it’s important to remember a gutsy teen-ager named Stephanie Neiman. Mr Lockett was given the death penalty for murdering Miss Neiman.

Mr Lockett and three accomplices kidnapped a 9-month old baby, the baby’s father, and teenager Stephanie Neiman in a home invasion. Miss Neiman was bound and gagged with duct tape. Mr Lockett forced her to watch while his accomplice dug her grave. The first time he tried to shoot her, the gun jammed, so he got a shotgun to use for the execution-style murder.

Witnesses said they heard Miss Neiman, begging for her life. Then, they heard a single shot. After that, they heard Lockett and his accomplices “laughing about how tough Stephanie was.” Then Mr Lockett shot her again.

Mr Lockett then ordered his accomplice to bury Miss Neiman, even though she was still alive.

I’m not going to comment on this beyond sharing the facts. I think the facts speak for themselves.

From CNN:

(CNN) – A vein on an Oklahoma inmate “exploded” in the middle of his execution Tuesday, prompting authorities to abruptly halt the process and call off another execution later in the day as they try to figure out what went wrong.

The inmate, Clayton Lockett, died 43 minutes after the first injection was administered — according to reporter Courtney Francisco ofCNN affiliate KFOR who witnessed the ordeal — of an apparent heart attack, Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton said.

That first drug, midazolam, is supposed to render a person unconscious. Seven minutes later, Lockett was still conscious. About 16 minutes in, after his mouth and then his head moved, he seemingly tried to get up and tried to talk, saying “man” aloud, according to the KFOR account.

Other reporters — including Cary Aspinwall of the Tulsa Worldnewspaper — similarly claimed that Lockett was “still alive,” having lifted his head while prison officials lowered the blinds at that time so that onlookers couldn’t see what was going on.

Even if I Die, I Should be the First One

Putharayil Fr Benny

Father Benny Putharayli

Even if I die, I should be the first one.

That was how Father Benny Putharayli evaluated the situation when the gunman who had invaded his church during mass gestured for him to step forward.

Father Putharayli’s parishioners were already on the floor, taking cover. A gunman had walked into the Church of St Michael in Ray, ND during mass and yelled, “Stop Father!”

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” the priest recounted. The parishioners hit the floor and that left Father Putharayli the only one standing.

When the gunman gestured for the priest to come forward, Father Putharayli thought, “Even if I die, I should be the first one.”

I would guess that Father’s thoughts were almost instantaneous. This doesn’t sound like the kind of situation where someone has time to weigh their ideas and contemplate consequences. Moments like this strip away the intellectual boundaries we place between who we are and who we would like to be.

It sounds as if that split second thought was Father Putharayli, offering his life for that of his parishioners.

The gunman was a killer. He had murdered two people, including his 82-year-old mother, before coming to the church. Fortunately, he only wanted money from the parishioners. But Father Putharayli didn’t know this when he was looking down the barrel of that shotgun, and given that he was dealing with someone so depraved that he had killed his own mother, things could easily have turned bloody in that church that evening.

The world gets crazier and violent acts multiply. But, even in the midst of this violence, individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice witness to the best that’s in us. That is one of the messages we need to take away from the many terrible events in our society. Good happens, and it happens in the worst of times.

I’m tired of asking the question “Why?” about the senseless violence in our society? The operative word about these terrible crimes is that they are senseless by ordinary thinking. There will never be a comprehensible answer to the question Why? or at least not one we want to hear.

The truth is, our society has become a psycho-breeder. We don’t want to face that and the implications it has for some of our cherished misbehaviors. But without a willingness to forego easy answers and quickie fixes that will not work, the eternal whys of the victims have no answers.

As I said a few months ago, we are going to have to learn to live with this. This is our new normal.

I understand the shattered victims who ask Why? That is the first and deepest response of the grievously wounded. Coming from those whose lives have been shattered, Why? isn’t a question so much as it is a statement. I am worth something it says. My loved one who is dead or injured is a beautiful gift from God and their worth is beyond counting. Don’t you see that?

That is what Why? means when it comes from a shattered victim.

But as a rhetorical question from a stunned public, it has ceased to resonate, at least for me. I am tired of asking Why?

I refuse to go where these rhetorical Whys? lead to, which is a fixation on the monsters who do these things. I don’t want to talk about them. I would rather we never spoke their names and, when the times comes, that we salt their graves so nothing can ever grow there again.

So, if you want to gabble about the various shootings and tragedies of this week or the weeks before, go elsewhere. The silence on this blog is my salt on the monster’s graves. They are anathema to me. When I speak, it will be about the beautiful acts of heroism and love that ordinary people rise to as a result of these pitiless assaults.

We need to focus on the brave and selfless people who look down the barrel of a shotgun and think Even if I die, I should be the first one. 

Because, even in the worst of times, good happens.

From Chicago Sun-Times.com:

The Rev. Benny D. Putharayil was conducting Saturday night mass at the Church of St. Michael in Ray, N.D. when a man armed with a shotgun barged in.

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” Putharayil recalled Monday night, only after learning the man had been wanted for murder. “He stepped in with a gun and shouted, ‘Stop, Father.’”

Heads in the pews turned to catch sight of 54-year-old Billy Varner, who has since been charged with the murder of two women in north suburban Antioch, according to the priest and authorities.

Nearly three-dozen parishioners hit the floor, taking cover in the pews, leaving Putharayil the only one standing, the Catholic priest said in a phone interview.

Then the man gestured with his gun for Putharayil to come forward.

“My thought was, ‘Even if I die, I should be the first one,’” Putharayil said. “By God’s grace I was a spared.”


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