GRPD: Man arrested after scene during Mass

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who was sleeping in a closet at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Grand Rapids’ West Side caused a disturbance during Mass Sunday morning and was arrested, police say.

It happened around 10:30 a.m. Amid the scuffle, parishioners ducked for cover beneath pews after hearing what they thought were gunshots.

But the man didn’t have a weapon. Police say the loud sound was actually a slamming door. No one was hurt.

The Grand Rapids Police Department says the man, who is homeless and has a mental disability, made his way into the church sometime Saturday night. When he was woken up by Mass starting, he started making a scene. Churchgoers rushed into action.

“The parishioners that were involved jumped into action very quickly,” GRPD Sgt. John Wittkowski said. “This individual was subdued very quickly. And you have to give them all the credit in the world and certainly a reasonable amount of courage because they didn’t know what this individual’s intentions were.”

GRPD says it had officers on the scene in less than a minute. They arrested the man for misdemeanor illegal entry, though police say they are focused on getting him the help he needs.

Church continued on after the arrest. A security sweep was performed when it was over and nothing else was found.

In a Monday letter to parishioners, Rev. Robert Sirico, the pastor at Sacred Heart, said the church has been working for more than year to improve security and that those efforts would continue. He praised the parishioners who confronted the man.

Sirico also offered forgiveness to the man who caused the disturbance and said he hoped the man could get the help he needs. He said he intended to reach out to the man and his family.

>>PDF: Letter from Rev. Robert Sirico to parishioners

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