A preacher busy delivering his sermon and his wife were robbed at gunpoint of more than $1 million worth of jewelry at a Brooklyn church on Sunday, police said. The robbery was captured on a livestream video from the service.
Lamor M. Whitehead, 44, a bishop at the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in the southeastern Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, spoke about the armed robbery in an Instagram post, calling it an example of “how the devil moves.”
“The devil doesn’t care; he sent them,” said Mr. Whitehead. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Just before the robbery began, footage of the sermon posted to YouTube showed Mr Whitehead asking his congregation a question: “How many of you have lost your faith because you saw someone else die?” Almost immediately afterward, a trio of armed and masked individuals in black clothing entered the church, according to Mr Whitehead, police and footage.
Seconds after his question, Mr. Whitehead appeared to see the intruders as they entered the church and he lay down on the raised podium, raising his arms. “I didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the church or if they just came for a robbery,” he said in the Instagram post. Cries were heard from the parishioners. It was not clear how many people were present.
He described lying on the floor with a gun pointed at him and then being stripped of belongings, including his watch, multiple necklaces, wedding ring and bishop’s cross. He said the attackers tore his collar from the clergy to gain access to his necklaces. mr. Whitehead said he believed the intruders were unaware they were being filmed.
Jewelry was also taken from Mr Whitehead’s 38-year-old wife, police said, adding that none of the victims were injured. After the theft, which took place shortly after 11 a.m., the three people fled on foot and got into a white Mercedes-Benz car. They were last seen driving away, police said, and no arrests had been made. An investigation is underway, the New York Police Department said.
In Sunday’s Instagram post, Mr. Whitehead approached the thieves and asked them to turn themselves in. He told them their actions had traumatized parishioners, including young children, who he said were still crying. He said there had been a gun in his 8-month-old daughter’s face.
“You did this to the church, the church I’m sure your grandmother praises God and Jesus,” he said. “There is no reason for you to enter a church and violate it.”
Mr Whitehead also responded to criticism, calling him “flashy” for his accessories and his luxury car.
“It’s about buying what I want to buy,” said Mr Whitehead. “It’s my privilege to buy what I want to buy when I’ve worked hard for it.”
He also expressed his gratitude to God that his church had avoided a mass shooting, a fatal scenario that other congregations had witnessed. He promised that he would be in the pulpit again this Sunday to preach.
Mr Whitehead said in a Facebook livestream Monday that he was offering a $50,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest of the armed robbers.