A homeless man was charged with menacing a parishioner and threatening to shoot the man and other worshippers on Easter Sunday in a Baldwin church, police said.
Jose Rodriguez, 50, entered Iglesia Despertar Church on Grand Avenue about 6:30 p.m. and approached a man he knew, Nassau County police said Monday morning.
Pastor Wilmer Estupinan told News 12 Long Island that Rodriguez, who had attended the church twice before, appeared upset that the service was over and started fighting with his small son and an usher.
He tried to push or punch his son, who moved and avoided being hurt, the pastor said.
But then he went to an usher and said “I’m going to punch your face, I’m going to shoot you,” Estupinan told News 12.
That was when the pastor’s wife, Clara, suggested calling the police, prompting Rodriguez to leave, only to return and start another confrontation, Estupinan said.
The pastor said he was in the basement when Rodriguez returned and told him, “You are the pastor? I am going to shoot you, too.”
Then the man gestured as if he had a gun, Estupinan said.
“Rodriguez then placed his hand to his pants pocket to indicate he had a weapon and stated out loud that he was going to come back to shoot the victim and other worshippers in the church, placing all in fear of their safety,” according to a police news release.
Rodriguez walked away and was arrested a short distance from the church by responding from the First Precinct, police said.
No weapon was recovered, police said.
Estupinan said churchgoers remained calm. “We are not expecting something like that to happen,” he said. “It’s very scary.”
Rodriguez was arraigned Monday in First District Court in Hempstead on charges of menacing, making a terroristic threat, and disruption or disturbance of a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service.
The name of his attorney was not immediately available. Court records show he was represented by the Legal Aid Society, which usually does not comment in the early stage of a case.
He was held pending a bail of $40,000 bond or $20,000 cash; a temporary order of protection was also issued against him.