A churchgoer shot a fellow parishioner in a Pennsylvania church after a fight broke out over a seat in the sanctuary on Sunday, authorities say.
The argument started when a churchgoer told Robert Braxton III, 27, he was sitting in seats reserved for two other church members during Sunday service at the Keystone Fellowship Church, district attorney Kevin Steele said.
He yelled “don’t f—ing touch me” after a church member tapped him on the shoulders to let him know he was in someone else’s seat, an affidavit obtained by NBC Philadelphia said.
Witnesses said Braxton started causing a fuss over the seat, but soon calmed down after talking to a church usher and a pastor.
But the situation soon turned violent when Mark Storms, 46, approached Braxton, carrying a gun in his hand and telling the 27-year-old to get out of the sanctuary.
The gun-toting suspect then flashed a Concealed Weapons Permit badge, which the district attorney’s office believes was purchased online.
“When he came over, he had a gun out, escalating the situation,” Steele said at a press conference on Thursday. “Braxton then took a swing at the defendant, punching him in the jaw.”
“F— you and your fake badge, get the f— out of here,” witnesses recalled Braxton telling Storms. “That’s not a real gun,” another witness remembered hearing.
Just before punching Storms, Braxton asked, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” according to the court records.
The gunman then opened fire, blasting Braxton once in the chest and again in the right arm.
Braxton was rushed to Abington-Lansdale Hospital, where he died from his multiple gunshot wounds.
The 46-year-old gunman was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
“Storms’ shooting of Mr. Braxton was not a reasonable self-defense situation,” the district attorney said.
Steele said Storms had no reason to bring a loaded gun to a crowded church on a Sunday morning, and had no right to confront Braxton, who was in the process of calming down.
He added that an average of 250 to 300 people attend that church’s Sunday service each week.
“It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to bring a gun to church,” Steele said.
The victim’s family was outraged that their loved one’s life was ripped away at church.
“You don’t go to church to be killed, you just don’t do that,” Diana Walters, Braxton’s aunt, told WPVI. “He’s a young man. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
The Keystone Fellowship church held a special service on Monday to mourn Braxton’s death.
“Our hearts are deeply grieved over the tragic event that occured Sunday morning, April 24 at our Montgomeryville campus. As a church family, we are shocked and heartbroken over what took place, and our congregation is in prayer for everyone involved,” the church wrote in a statement on Facebook.
At Storms’ arraignment, the alleged killer insisted that he used a weapon in self-defense. His bail is set at $250,000. Storms told police that he was hoping to defuse the situation by showing a gun, which, according to court documents, he’s done in the past.
Source: NY Daily News