2 shot at wedding in New Hampshire church, police say

A police cordon at New England Pentecostal Ministries church in Pelham, New Hampshire, following the shooting incident, on Oct 12, 2019.
A police cordon at New England Pentecostal Ministries church in Pelham, New Hampshire, following the shooting incident, on Oct 12, 2019.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - A Saturday (Oct 12) morning wedding at a church in a small New Hampshire town came to a bloody and abrupt halt when a gunman barged in and opened fire, wounding a bishop and the bride before he was "gang tackled", the authorities said.

The shooting appeared to be revenge for the killing this month of another clergyman in the same congregation, New England Pentecostal Ministries church in Pelham, New Hampshire, about 30 miles (48km) north of Boston.

The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials as Dale Holloway, 37, who, according to obituary information, is the stepson of ordained minister Luis Garcia who was fatally shot at his Londonderry, New Hampshire, home on Oct 1.

Brandon Castiglione, 24, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of church minister Garcia, for whom a memorial service had been scheduled at the church after Saturday's wedding.

Castiglione's father, Mr Mark Castiglione, 60, was the groom, according to the authorities.

He was treated at a local hospital and released after being struck in the head with an unspecified object.

The most grave injury on Saturday was suffered by Bishop Stanley Choate, who the authorities said was shot in the chest and was in serious condition at Tufts Medical Centre in Boston.

In a Facebook post, Ms Neivia Choate, the bishop's niece, wrote: "A coward walked into my family's church today at NEP New England Pentecostal Church and shot my uncle Bishop Stanley Choate.

"I call for anyone that knows and believes and In the GOD we serve to get on your knees and pray for my family."

The bride, Ms Claire McMullen, 60, was in good condition after being shot in the arm, according to Mr Benjamin Agati, a senior assistant state attorney-general, who said during a news conference that the first 911 call came in at 10.12am from a person at the church.

"The caller initially reported that a man had come into the church and shot the presiding bishop," Mr Agati said.

He declined to say whether the two acts of violence involving the church were connected, citing an investigation into Saturday's shooting.

 
 
 

"Preliminary investigation of the matter indicates that this incident does not appear to be a random event," he said.

Holloway was charged with first-degree assault and was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, New Hampshire, Mr Agati said, adding that additional charges were possible.

Wedding guests had the gunman pinned down when officers arrived, police chief Joseph Roark of the Pelham Police Department said at a news conference on Saturday afternoon. The suspect used a handgun, the police said.

Mr Darius Mitchell, who said his family was close with Bishop Choate, said the church and its bishop were well known in the African American community of Lowell, Massachusetts, which is about 10 miles away.

The shooting was the latest in a series of acts of violence to occur at houses of worship.

In 2018, a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead, and in 2017, a shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, left 26 dead.

In Pelham, the police provided the church with active shooter training within the past year, police chief Roark said.

The community, which has a population of just over 13,000, was a farming community up until World War II, "when explosive growth in population and industry took hold and has yet to slow down", according to its website.

On Saturday, the church was scheduled to host a "celebration of life" service for church minister Garcia at noon. He was trying to help Castiglione, Bishop Choate told WMUR, a local television station. The bishop said Castiglione "was having some problems mentally, and (Minister) Luis was there to try to help him out".

In an interview with television station WCVB, Mr Geraldo Pagan said he had arrived at the church for the service for Minister Garcia and was told by the police that "everything has been cancelled". He said he was shocked to see all the police activity.

"I'm deeply disturbed to hear about the shooting in Pelham this morning," US Senator Maggie Hassan wrote on Twitter. "Today was supposed to serve as a celebration of the life of Minister Luis Garcia. This senseless violence can't continue - my prayers are with the victims of this terrible attack."