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25 Dec, 2008 11:04

Nightmare on Elm Street

The small town of Henderson, Texas is still in a state of shock this Christmas after an armed gunman made his way into a local church demanding money and firing shots into the air.

The Sunday Christmas service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had just ended and the children and adults of more than ten families were still inside, enjoying refreshments, when a man, dressed in black and wearing a ski-mask, entered the church, levelled his weapon at the heads of those inside and demanded money.

The assailant had attempted the robbery of two church members outside the building on Elm Street, firing one shot, before entering and demanding the wallets of all those inside. Only the quick thinking of the congregation prevented anyone getting hurt. The men formed a protective semi-circle between the gunman and their families while the women herded the children to the safety of a back room.

Darlene Lanius was inside the church with six members of her family when she heard the first shot: “A girl came through and said; ‘there’s a man out in the hall with a gun.’ When we looked up and realised what was going on, the main concern was the kids and getting them out of there,” she said. “All the guys headed towards the door, there was five or six men making a semi-circle… they kept him at bay.”

The attacker pointed his gun at each of the men demanding their wallets, Darlene’s brother Jerry handed his over: “He was taking his gun and pointing it at each of these men saying ‘give me your wallet, give me your wallet’, he finally came to rest the gun at my brother… he (Jerry) reached inside his coat pocket and threw the wallet to him.”

“The gunman had a bag in his hand and I felt like it was his intention to get all the purses and all the wallets from everyone in there. He was going to fill it up with whatever he could get. But he wound up just getting one item.”

The gunman retreated outside and when the men followed he again fired into the air and fled. The one item he escaped with contained just 23 dollars.

“It was a terrible thing…and even more terrible that it happened in a church,” said Darlene, “but none of the kids were hurt and there wasn’t a scratch on anyone and we felt like we had are most prized possessions and that was our families.”

Ciaran Walsh for RT