A pastor who was delivering his sermon and his wife had more than $1 million worth of jewelry robbed at gunpoint from a Brooklyn church on Sunday, police said. The heist was captured on live video from the service.
Lamor M. Whitehead, 44, a bishop of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn’s southeast neighborhood of Canarsie, spoke about the armed robbery in an Instagram post, calling it an example of “how the devil moves “.
“The devil doesn’t care; he sent them,” Mr Whitehead said. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just before the flight began, footage of the sermon posted to YouTube showed Mr Whitehead posing a question to his congregation: “How many of you lost your faith because you saw someone else die?” Almost immediately afterwards, a trio of armed and masked individuals dressed in black entered the church, according to Mr Whitehead, police and footage.
Seconds after his question, Mr Whitehead appeared to spot the intruders as they entered the church and he lay down on the raised stage while raising his arms. “I didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the church or if they were just coming for a robbery,” he said in the Instagram post. Screams could be heard from parishioners. We didn’t know how many people were there.
He described being laid on the ground with a gun pointed at him and then being stripped of his personal belongings, including his watch, several chains, his wedding band and his bishop’s cross. He said the attackers ripped off his clergy collar to get at his collars. Mr Whitehead said he believed the intruders were unaware they were being filmed.
Jewelery was also taken from Mr Whitehead’s 38-year-old wife, police said, adding that none of the victims were injured. After the theft, which took place shortly after 11 a.m., the three individuals fled on foot and boarded a white Mercedes-Benz vehicle. They were last seen walking away, police said, and no arrests have been made. An investigation was underway, the New York Police Department said.
In Sunday’s Instagram post, Mr Whitehead addressed the thieves and asked them to surrender. He told them their actions had traumatized parishioners, including young children, who he said were still crying. He said a gun was pointed at his 8-month-old daughter’s face.
“You did this in church, the church where I’m sure your grandmother worships God and Jesus,” he said. “There’s no reason for you to walk into a church and rape it.”
Mr Whitehead also responded to critics calling him “flashy” for his accessories and luxury car.
“It’s about me buying what I want to buy,” Mr Whitehead said. “It’s my prerogative to buy what I want to buy if I’ve worked hard for it.”
He also expressed his gratitude to God that his church avoided a mass shooting, a fatal scenario he noted other congregations had experienced. He promised he would be back on the pulpit to preach this Sunday.
Mr Whitehead said in a Facebook live stream on Monday that he was offering a cash reward of $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the armed robbers.