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Update: Pair with guns cause scare at church

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St. Timothy's Episcopal Church rector John Porter-Acee walks with Greenville Police Department Officers on Eleanor Street next to the church after police took and armed woman and man into custody on Tuesday.

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Greenville police surrounded a church and took two people into custody on Tuesday after an armed man with a ballistic vest showed up there thinking he was to meet a possible scammer.

The man entered a building on the campus of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 107 Louis St., after 11 a.m. and spoke to the pastor, John Porter-Acee, according to Greenville Police Department Chief Mark Holtzman.

He told Porter-Acee he had a gun and the vest, that a woman outside had a gun, and that they were waiting to meet someone, Holtzman said.

Detectives later determined that the two were the targets of scammers and "felt compelled to meet an unknown person at the church," according to an afternoon news release.

The man feared for his safety due to the circumstances, and he and his friend armed themselves as a precaution, the release said. No one was injured and the two never threatened anyone.

The man was known to Porter-Acee. He began to walk around inside a building after speaking to the pastor, and Porter-Acee called 911 from his office, Holtzman said.

The church secretary left the campus, located near Fire Tower Road and 14th Street, and the pastor locked himself inside the church office while he spoke to a dispatcher, Holtzman said. Police arrived shortly before 11:30 a.m.

The man came outside and was taken into custody after officers arrived. The woman drove from the scene but was taken into custody a short time later. Neither had been charged on Tuesday afternoon.

The pastor called police because he was not comfortable with the situation, he said in an email to his congregation that he shared with The Daily Reflector.

"I was made aware of a person who felt threatened," the email said. "Because of the perceived threat, the person had a gun on our property. I was uncomfortable. I called the police. The police did a fantastic and thorough job making sure everyone was safe. To my knowledge, no crimes were committed and I can fully attest to the fact that no crimes were intended."

Police were able to quickly respond, establish a perimeter, search the building and determine the area was clear of possible threats, Holtzman said.

"These types of calls get the highest priority and our officers acted responsibly and professionally. They handled this at the highest level of response for us," Holtzman said.

"The pastor did the right thing and quickly took action on the information," he said.

Detectives do not believe there was ever any threat to the public and they do not believe the scammers ever had any intentions of actually meeting anyone at the church, the news release said.

Holtzman was asked at the scene why the meeting was set at the church. He said the location was familiar to man with the gun and vest.

The police department did not identify either the man or woman involved in the incident. The man has been admitted to the hospital for further evaluation.

It appears the scammers may be based in a different country, the news release said. Detectives will continue to investigate the matter.

Previous story

Greenville police took two people into custody Tuesday after a pastor reported an armed man with a ballistic vest was inside a church building, authorities said.

The man entered a building on the campus of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, 107 Louis St., about 11 a.m. and told the pastor he had a gun and the vest, that a woman outside had a gun, and that they were waiting to meet someone, according to Greenville Police Department Chief Mark Holtzman.

The man, who was known to the priest, then began to walk around inside the building, which prompted the pastor to call 911 from his office, Holtzman said.

The church secretary left the campus, located near Fire Tower Road and 14th Street, and the pastor locked himself inside the church office while he spoke to 911, Holtzman said. Police arrived shortly before 11:30 a.m.

The man came outside and was taken into custody after officers arrived. The woman drove from the scene but was taken into custody a short time later. Neither had been charged Tuesday afternoon.

"We believe they came here with the intent of meeting someone in the parking lot," Holtzman said. "From that point, we don't know any real details beyond that as to what was to occur there," Holtzman said.

Police were able to quickly respond, establish a perimeter, search the building and determine the area was clear of threats, Holtzman said.

"These types of calls get the highest priority and our officers acted responsibly and professionally. They handled this at the highest level of response for us," Holtzman said.

"The pastor did the right thing and quickly took action on the information," Holtzman said.

The chief said officers will be conducting interviews to sort out the situation and determine what if any charges should be filed.

"I don't know why they chose the church. The church is familiar to the person of interest. The location is familiar to that person," Holtzman said.

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