The pastor of a Massachusetts church is speaking out for the first time after coming face to face with a gunman that police say later opened fire on two of their officers.
Pastor Randal Ackland of the Assembly of God Church in South Attleboro had just finished dropping off his wife at the adjoining school and daycare Monday morning. It was his day off, but he said he went into the sanctuary to retrieve a tablet power cable that he had forgotten. As soon as the pastor walked into the foyer, he said he made eye contact with the suspect that was armed and appeared agitated.
“The gun in and of itself wasn’t the problem, it was his troubled nature that was the problem,” Ackland said.
Ackland said the man, later identified as Eric Lindsey, 41, of Coventry, Rhode Island, was startled and later told him he came to the church because he was looking for a place to sleep.
The pastor said Lindsey did not point the gun at him, but the suspect also did not answer him when he asked a few questions.
“The first thing I said was, 'can I help you,'” Ackland said. “Then I said, 'would you like me to call a doctor, the police or a counselor', and he liked the word help, but he didn’t like the word police.”
Ackland said he bought time by going to get the cable in the sanctuary, and by the time he came back, the suspect said it was best if he leave. The pastor agreed, but then called the police.
Ackland said he did not realize what Lindsey was accused of doing, firing on the police officers who were pursuing him, until later.
“I didn’t know it was that bad,” Ackland said. “You don’t know what’s in somebody’s mind.”
He said he is grateful everyone survived and praying for all involved, including the suspect.
“I’m grateful the police officers were spared and that even Eric is now getting the help he needs,” Ackland said.
The pastor said he is thankful the incident was resolved before the daycare opened a half hour later. Emails have been sent out to the congregation as well as parents of the adjoining school and daycare.
He said they recently improved their security measures following the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The church board will be revisiting the topic at their next meeting after learning the suspect got in the sanctuary through a door that was not supposed to be open.