SANTA ANA, Calif. — A police officer was involved in a fatal shooting of an armed man inside a Catholic Church Sunday afternoon, the Orange County Register reported.
The shooting occurred shortly after a Santa Ana police officer was flagged down at 4:20 p.m. and told someone inside Immaculate Heart of Mary Church had a gun, police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
The officer found the man with a handgun at the altar inside the church, and then the shooting took place shortly thereafter, Bertagna said.
The officer fired at the suspect and struck him. The man exited a back door and ran 100 feet outside the church before he collapsed on Center Street south of McFadden. He was pronounced dead at the scene with the gun he was carrying still in his possession.
No officers or church parishioners were hurt. An estimated 10 to 15 people potentially associated with a choir group were in the church at the time of the shooting, police said.
“We understand he was distraught over a relationship,” Bertagna told the Register. “We’re not sure if that’s why he was here.”
Police Chief David Valentin said witnesses reported the man was distraught and possibly suicidal, and it didn’t appear he was planning a mass shooting.
“It’s tragic, it really is. Any loss of life, it’s tragic. In this circumstance, it’s a place of worship,” Valentin said. “People come here for comfort, spiritual healing, support, so for this to happen here it’s traumatic for everyone involved.”
Officers were told by people inside the church, who had arrived for a 5 p.m. service, that another person may have been with the suspect. As a result, police searched the church and a nearby school, but by early Sunday evening had not yet found another suspect, Bertagna told the Register.
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It wasn’t known how many shots were fired. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will conduct the OIS investigation.
Police withheld the suspect’s name pending notification of family.
Santa Ana police officers fatally shot an armed man Sunday afternoon inside a Catholic church, the Orange County Register reported. https://t.co/ZLjj3Ylpxn
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) March 2, 2020
Maria Roque, 39 of Santa Ana, a member of the church, told the Register that she, like the others, was surprised to find out a shooting occurred. Friends were in the library inside the church when the shooting took place, but they were all safe, she said.
“It’s scary to think we’re not even safe here,” Roque said. “I’ve been coming here since I was 16 years old.”
A Vote Center in the church was evacuated because of the incident, according to Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley.
Shooting occurred near our Vote Center at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Santa Ana. An active criminal investigation is taking place. @SantaAnaPD is asking the public to stay away from the area. Vote Center staff and voters evacuated and are safe. 1/2
— OC Registrar (@OCRegistrar) March 2, 2020
“Vote Center staff and voters have been evacuated and are safe,” the Registrar’s office said in a statement.