Courtney Fischer of WTAE reported that a gun accidentally went off about 11 p.m. on Saturday during an Easter Vigil Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona police said that the gun owner was grazed by the bullet when the weapon snagged on his pants.
Jason Wagler was attending the Mass with his fiancée when he heard the gunshot. Wagler said, “We were standing for a few minutes and just before the final procession started, the gunshot went off.” He added that no one seemed to know what happened at first. Then he saw smoke. According to Fischer, Wagler took a number of photos with his phone shortly after the incident happened.
A “critical piece of the handgun” reportedly got caught on the gun owner’s pants as he stood up. Christy Heck, an Altoona police officer, said that the gun’s safety “apparently was not engaged. The man who accidentally fired his gun reportedly had a permit to carry it.
Wagler said, “I immediately took a step back and was about to take cover. You never know if you’re safe anymore in this world. It’s a shame to know you can’t go into church without having something like this happen.”
Asher Carr—who also attended the Easter Vigil Mass—told WTAJ that he hadn’t realized that a gun had gone off. Carr said, “I didn’t really know what that was. I thought it was coming from outside.”
Parishioner Sue Talasky told WTAJ that having a permit doesn’t mean you should bring a gun to church. She said, “You have to consider that easter vigil there’s a lot of families there with little kids and anything could have happened.”
Wagler said that following the church service, “he went over to see what exactly happened.” He said he saw “the man with the gun hand it off to another man, who then placed it in his program.” Wagler added, “It was like he was hiding the gun, yes he didn’t want it obvious didn’t want it out there.”
Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese said he was grateful that no one who attended the service was seriously injured. He added that “guns have no place in our cathedral or any of the other parishes in our diocese” because churches “must be an environment in which all feel safe.”
David Edwards of Raw Story said that there “were no indications that charges would be filed against the shooter.”
It seems like people bringing guns into churches are accidents waiting to happen. What if someone other than the gun owner had been injured or killed during the Easter Vigil Mass? Do you suppose the gun owner would then have charges filed against him?
Gun fired during Mass (Altoona Mirror)