Man shot to death in Albanian church while his children watched
Anton Kçira, the priest at St. Paul Albanian Catholic church in Rochester Hills, Michigan, was just about to distribute communion when 38-year-old Gjon Pepaj allegedly stood up from the congregation and said, "Yes, I am here!" and shot into the ceiling with a 9mm handgun. As the congregants scattered, according to reports, Pepaj then shot 38-year-old Gjek Isufaj in the back of the head, killing him. Then, according to witnesses, he shot into the air again, said, "I've done what I'm supposed to do," and shot Isufaj once more. (At least eight shots were fired altogether, say police.)
At least seven were injured in the attack—most from trying to flee the church, including jumping out of the windows. Others, like Prel Dedvukaj, were injured when they tried to subdue Pepaj. "I held (the suspect) like everybody else until the cops got there," Dedvukaj told The Oakland Press. "Ten to fifteen people before me grabbed him. People were definitely going to mess him up. I held him because I didn't want any more killing in there."
With more than 1,000 families attending, St. Paul's is one of the largest Albanian churches in the country. For now, it has shut down its website with a note that "the person that did the shooting and the person that got shot were NOT MEMEBERS (sic) OF OUR CHURCH!!" (Google has the church's website cached, and there are discussions of what happened at AlbChurch.com and the church's online guestbook.)
The two men had apparently been friends for a long time—they had even been best men at each other's weddings—but had been feuding for about six years.
"It looks like a dispute between individuals," said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. "One just spotted the other here in church. … It's sad that someone would do this anywhere, but to have it happen in a church makes it worse."
Isufaj was attending the church with his 10-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. Detroit's WXYZ-TV has snippets of a video interview with them. More coverage is available from The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.
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