Gates priest surprises intruder in church - Catholic Courier

Gates priest surprises intruder in church

Father George Okoth became a crimestopper July 17 when he surprised a man breaking into the chapel of St. Theodore’s Church in Gates.

At about 9:20 a.m., Father Okoth, St. Theodore’s pastor, said he heard “a huge bang on the door of the chapel,” which is located next to the church.

“As I moved closer (to the chapel), it sounded like somebody breaking something,” Father Okoth said. “I had my (cell) phone ‚Ķ and I called 911.”

When the intruder came into the church itself and was confronted by Father Okoth, he told him he was looking for food.

“I told him, ‘You are looking in the wrong place,’” he said.

The priest said the intruder brushed past him and tried to escape on a bicycle. Gates Police eventually arrested a suspect in the 400 block of Spencerport Road, according to Chief Thomas Roche.

Roche said the suspect, Lawrence D. Johnson, 46, of 331 Hazelwood Terrace, Rochester, was charged with third-degree burglary, harassment, criminal mischief and resisting arrest. Held in Monroe County Jail in lieu of $1,500 cash bail, he had a preliminary hearing July 21 in Gates Town Court before Judge John Pisaturo. Roche said the case was adjourned for a week.

Father Okoth said he didn’t want the intruder punished, but simply wants him barred from church property.

“I stand at the pulpit preaching forgiveness,” he said. “I’m not going to stand at the bar preaching, ‘Crucify him.’”

Father Okoth said the intruder didn’t steal anything, but did do some damage to the chapel, including putting a hole in a wall. He added that the intruder had been seen on parish grounds before, asking people for money.

Father Okoth said he acted on instinct but will be more cautious if an intruder breaks into his church again, adding, “I will not be foolish again.”

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