Posted On Dec 30 2019
PALMDALE – A 65-year-old man armed with a gun terrorized a Catholic church before Sunday evening services, shouting profanities, assaulting a priest who tried to calm him and making threats as choir members held him down. “There’s going to be a killing,” Claude Sricchia is said to have shouted once he entered St. Mary’s Catholic Church about half an hour before the 5:30 p.m. Mass. “It was kind of a frightening experience,” said Msgr. Stephen Downes, St. Mary’s pastor. “The man was shouting in the church, `Clear the church, there’s going to be a killing.”‘ Sheriff’s deputies arrived, and as they were handcuffing Sricchia they found a loaded .45-caliber pistol tucked in the back of his waistband, officials said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “It was cocked and ready to go,” Deputy Daryl Bonsall said. Sricchia, who lives in Acton, was arrested on suspicion of making terrorist threats, assault and having a concealed firearm, Bonsall said. Sricchia was not a member of the Palmdale parish, Downes said. The pastor had just arrived at the church at 1600 E. Ave. R when a staff member called his cell phone, alerting him to a man shouting inside the church. “As I walked in, he had gotten to the choir area and became very aggressive,” Downes said. “He hit a male choir member on the side of the head, then a maintenance man tackled him to the ground. Other choir members held him down.” Downes said the man was cursing, saying there was no God or religion, Downes said. “He said, `I believed for 65 years. There is no God,”‘ Downes said. Downes went to try to calm Sricchia but when the man realized that Downes was a priest, “he became enraged and cursed and swore even more and called me a child molester,” Downes said. The man kicked Downes, knocking him to the ground. Mass was held but started late, Downes said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!