Stealing from anybody is a pretty bad life choice. Stealing from a place of worship is even worse.
But the worst decision might be what a would-be burglar just tried to do in Florida. A thug in Tampa got more than he bargained for after breaking into a church and finding that the pastor protected his flock with a lawfully-owned gun.
The incident happened around one in the morning on Thursday when Brant Adams, the pastor of Seminole Heights Baptist Church, received a notification that a burglar alarm had been triggered.
He and a deacon headed out to see if the church was secure, but Adams arrived first because he lives nearby. To his dismay, the pastor found a window had been smashed with a brick — and a suspect was still inside the building.
“I walked in and I saw him coming out of the director of Mission Tampa’s office with his back to me,” Adams told WTVT.
“He’s looking down at his hand, and I didn’t know what he had in his hand, so I pulled the gun through the window. I sort of stood behind the door but where he could see me.”
With the police still minutes away, the pastor decided to confront the burglar before the situation escalated.
“I took the gun, pointed at him, and told him to get down,” Adams said. “I yelled at him and said ‘Hey, get down!’ He put his hands up, went to the ground.”
The pastor held the suspect — later identified as Miguel Otero-Rivera — at gunpoint until authorities arrived. Adams told WTVT that he kept his distance from the alleged burglar and didn’t physically engage him.
Blood in parts of the church from when the intruder broke glass to enter the building made it clear that the suspect had been searching for something, likely cash.
“Police said the suspect was holding a laptop computer owned by the church,” WTVT reported.
Miguel Otero-Rivera is now facing charges of burglary, grand theft and drug possession. But Pastor Adams explained that the entire situation could have been avoided if the man had asked for assistance instead of trying to take money by force.
“The simple message is if you need help, ask for it. You don’t need to steal,” he said.
“There’s so many things that we try to do to help people,” Adams continued. “If he would’ve just come to the back door and knocked and ask for something, said, ‘I need some food.’ We would’ve given him some food.”
While it’s disheartening to see a place of worship disrespected like this, hundreds of similar incidents happen every year. According to the FBI, nearly 300 hate crime incidents targeted churches, synagogues and other religious buildings in 2017.
That number likely doesn’t include cases where perpetrators were motivated by money or another reason besides anti-religious anger.
The bottom line is that places that should be sanctuaries aren’t always treated with the respect they deserve. In this case, though, the pastor was prepared for the worst — and the situation should make criminals think twice about seeing churches as easy targets.
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