Church leaders make changes after choir robbed at gunpoint

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - It's been almost a month since Chad Kelly's mother and eight other members of St. James United Methodist Church stared down the barrel of a gun and were robbed during choir practice. Since the incident, security changes to the Goose Creek church are being made by it's leaders to ensure safety for it's members.

"The church is supposed to be the safest place you can go," said Kelly, the newly appointed head of the church's safety and security team. "It represents everything that's supposed to be good in this world. That man came in here and changed that for several people. Now we're trying to get that back."

Kelly was the first on scene after the man ran away with money, credit cards and cell phones of choir members on January 18.

According to Kelly, the man walked up to the front of the church, through the front doors and into the sanctuary before pulling out a gun and making demands.

Police still have not been able to location or identify the man who robbed the church members, but Kelly says he isn't waiting on an arrest.

As leader of the safety and security committee, Kelly is planning and implementing strategies to make sure the church is prepared for the worst, if it were to happen, again.

"We have the doors locked. We're working on electronic surveillance. We're upgrading the lighting and adding more lighting," Kelly said. "Just trying to make everybody feel safer."

Kelly also talked about the possibility of getting video surveillance and an intercom system so church doors can remain locked.

In a police report of the incident, one of the victims told police that a man entered the church through an unlocked door and aimed a shotgun towards the choir area the night of Jan. 18.

The victims told police that the suspect then told the choir to get on the floor and to "Keep your heads down, I'll blow your head off."

According to investigators with the Goose Creek Police Department, the suspect continued to demand everyone's wallets and purses and told everyone to keep their heads down before running back in the direction he came from.

Investigators describe the suspect as a black male between 5'10" to 5'11, 230 lbs, wearing a black knit cap, blue jeans, light colored jacket, gray jogging style shoes and armed with a long gun.

One of the victims told investigators that the suspect's speech was "Gullah-like" and knew that it was not a Jamaican or Georgian accent.

With the man who robbed the church still on the loose, church pastor Anthony Hodge says the choir members are still very uneasy. But he believes the planned improvements will calm their nerves.

"We are in the process of taking steps now to at least be preventive," said Reverend Hodge."It happened but it's not something that we are allowing to stop us from still being a church."

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.