Gunman kills priest and woman during mass service

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The Independent US

A gunman opened fire inside a church in Long Island yesterday, killing one woman in the congregation and the priest.

A gunman opened fire inside a church in Long Island yesterday, killing one woman in the congregation and the priest.

Police in Lynbrook, a suburb about 20 miles from New York City, rushed to a nearby apartment building where they believed the gunman was hiding.

The shooting occurred during yesterday's 9am mass at Our Lady of Peace Church. The priest, who was gunned down just after he had finished the homily, was identified as the Rev Lawrence Penzes, who was 50 years old.

The female victim was said to have been about 70 years old. She was shot in the face.

The incident caused panic in the well-to-do neighbourhood. "I looked outside and there were police with guns drawn," said Jeanette Singone, who lives down the street from the church. "Right now they are just kind of over there staring at this one house and they're not letting any of us leave."

A school adjacent to the church that has 400 students aged between six and 13 was closed temporarily.

Inside the church, several parishioners were questioned by police. Sal Manzo, 39, described the Rev Penzes as a "nice man who cares about the kids to the hundredth power". It was not clear what had driven the gunman to open fire on the priest and the congregation, he said.

The Rev Robert McGuire, who had worked with the Rev Penzes at St Pius X church in Plainview, another Long Island town, in the late Eighties, paid tribute to his dead colleague.

"He was a wonderful guy," he said. "He was a very outgoing guy and a very, very generous man."

The suspect, who acted alone and is believed to be between 35 and 40 years old, reportedly entered the church at about 9.10am and fired several shots. He was then chased by two members of the congregation, one of whom was an off-duty police officer.

The man then escaped into the apartment building about a block away. It was thought that he lived in one of the housing units in the building.

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