Parishioners Stop Potential Shooter at Louisiana Catholic Church

Evan Poellinger | May 15, 2024

Quick-acting parishioners stopped and disarmed a teenager who entered a Catholic Church with a rifle in Abbeville, Louisiana during a first communion service.

The 16-year-old suspect entered St. Mary Magdalen Church on Saturday carrying a rifle and dressed in a black, hooded sweatshirt, in spite of the warm weather. The suspect was quickly confronted by a number of parishioners who disarmed and escorted him outside before he was taken into custody. While authorities have not yet released a motive for the suspect, the teenager has been charged with terrorizing and two counts of possession of a firearm by a juvenile.

Despite the rapid response of both parishioners and law enforcement, the incident sparked panic in the church, which was captured on livestream. After a parishioner informed Fr. Nicholas Dupre of the events taking place, Dupre requested that parishioners sit down and began praying the Hail Mary in union with his congregation.

As police entered the building, the priests ducked behind the altar while servers ran for cover. While sweeping for any additional armed intruders, police directed parishioners to keep close to their children and evacuate. St. Mary Magdalen Church has since announced that uniformed officers will be present at future masses.

If the potential shooter’s motive was, in fact, tied to the parish itself, it would represent only the latest in scores of attacks on Catholic churches that have occurred since 2020. According to CatholicVote, 421 Catholic Churches have been subjected to attacks over the past four years, with 31 such attacks ranging from vandalism to arson occurring this year.

Perhaps the most infamous rash of church attacks took place in Canada after the alleged discovery of mass graves at the sites of former residential schools run by the Catholic Church. After 85 Catholic churches were burned and millions of dollars expended to excavate the graves, no bodies have been found, in what has been described by some commentators as “a modern-day blood libel.”

If past attacks are any indication, American Catholics would be wise to remain prepared for situations similar to the incident in Abbeville.