POLICE: Armed man wearing ballistic vest at Greenville church was scam victim

Published: Jun. 11, 2019 at 1:18 PM EDT
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Police say a man who walked into a Greenville church wearing a ballistic vest and carrying a handgun was a scam victim who felt threatened.

It happened around 11:00 a.m. at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church on Fire Tower Road.

Chief Mark Holtzman says there was also an armed woman in a vehicle in the church parking lot.

The chief said the armed man was "familiar" with Father John Porter-Acee. He said the man walked into the church and told Father Porter-Acee about the woman outside in the vehicle and that they were planning to meet someone at the church. The armed man then began to wander inside the church, according to Holtzman.

Only two people were inside the church at the time, and the priest told the secretary to evacuate while he barricaded himself in his office and called 911.

Holtzman said at no point did the armed man pose a threat to anyone or himself. The chief said the man was eventually detained by police, while the woman was found in her vehicle a short distance away from the church.

After interviewing the man and woman, police now believe they were targets of scammers and felt compelled to meet the unknown person at the church. Fearing for their safety, police said the man and woman armed themselves as a precaution.

Father Porter-Acee told WITN that it was scary this morning, but they are trying to go back to business as usual.

In a message to parishioners, Father Porter-Acee said the man felt threatened and that's why he was armed. He said to his knowledge, no crimes were committed, "and I can fully attest to the fact that no crimes were intended."

The priest said Greenville police did a fantastic job in making sure everyone was safe.

Police said no charges will be brought against the two, while the man has been admitted to the hospital for further evaluation.

Fire Tower Road near the church was closed for more than an hour, as well as neighborhoods behind the church.