PELHAM, New Hampshire — A man shot the presiding bishop and a parishioner at a church wedding here Saturday morning before being pinned down by attendees and arrested by police, state officials said.
The gunman arrived at the New England Pentecostal Ministries church at approximately 10:12 a.m., the Pelham police department said in a statement. Guests subdued the alleged attacker by the time law enforcement arrived within minutes of a 911 call, authorities say. They found Bishop Stanley Choate with wounds to his upper chest.
Dale Holloway, 37, has been arrested for first-degree assault on 75-year-old Choate, New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced in a statement Saturday evening.
There were no fatalities, but Choate is in serious condition at Tufts Medical Center in nearby Boston, according to MacDonald’s statement.
“A coward walked into my family’s church today,” Neivia Choate, who identified herself as the bishop’s niece, wrote in a Facebook post. She asked people to “get on your knees and pray for my family.”
The shooting, carried out with a handgun, does not seem to be random, Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark said at a news conference Saturday. No motive has been announced.
Two people suffered injuries less serious than the bishop’s, officials said. Claire McMullen, 60, was shot in the arm and is in “good condition,” according to MacDonald’s statement. Another parishioner, 60-year-old Mark Castiglione, has been released from a hospital after being struck in the head by an object.
Holloway has also been arrested on “alternative counts of purposely and knowingly causing bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon” related to the shooting of the bishop, MacDonald’s statement said. He is set to appear Oct. 15 in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire. It is not clear if he has a lawyer.
The New England Pentecostal Ministries had already endured one tragedy, after one of its ordained ministers, Luis Garcia, was found shot to death inside his home last week. Brandon Castiglione, 24, was arrested and charged with second degree murder in Garcia’s death, but waived an arraignment and is being held without bail according to state prosecutors.
A funeral for Garcia had been scheduled for later that day, the Union Leader reported, but mourners were turned away because of the shooting. Geraldo Pagan, who planned to attend the service, told NBC Boston that police had informed him “everything has been canceled.”
It is not known if Choate’s and Garcia’s shootings are connected.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said in a tweet that she was “deeply disturbed” to hear of the shooting.
“Today was supposed to serve as a celebration of the life of Minister Luis Garcia,” she wrote, adding, “This senseless violence can’t continue.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, confirmed the shooting investigation and that law enforcement was on the scene.
A Domestic Abuse Month event was also scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, according to the church’s calendar.
About 40 people were at the wedding, police estimated, and some of them received treatment for minor injuries incurred in the struggle with the shooter. They “basically gang-tackled” the gunman, Chief Roark said.
“That is a standard that’s being taught now. … to address the threat,” he said.
Police provided the church with active shooter training within the past year, he added.
Investigators still have many witnesses to interview, he said.
The New Hampshire State Police’s major crime unit was on the scene, and the church remained surrounded by emergency personnel Saturday, and some nearby roads remained closed by police. State Police and the New Hampshire attorney general are taking over the investigation, officials said.
Sundays services at the Pelham church have been canceled, the state attorney general said.