As he prepared to open the doors of his church for Sunday worship, a Mississippi pastor was shot and killed during a robbery, police say.
“This is a very, very sad day where a pastor opening his church up for service lost his life,” James Davis, chief of the Jackson Police Department, told KTVE. “It’s senseless, but it’s a community. The police cannot do it by ourselves; we need help from the community to step up.”
Police say 62-year-old Anthony Longino was outside New Bethany Missionary Baptist Church, his church in Jackson, Mississippi, when 22-year-old Marquez Hamilton shot and killed him around 8 a.m., according to WAPT.
After his arrest later Sunday, Hamilton said he intended to rob the pastor along with other friends, police say, and they drove away from the church in the slain pastor’s truck, according to WLBT. Police say that “more arrests are expected,” the TV station reported.
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Chris Austin, who lives near the church, said “it’s messed up” when he heard details about how Longino died, according to The Mississippi Clarion Ledger.
“Nobody should go out like that,” Austin told the newspaper, “especially a pastor in God’s home.”
The pastor’s body was found outside the church. A woman who lived right next to the house of worship told The Mississippi Clarion Ledger that she was “surprised” she went through Sunday morning without noticing any gunshots.
Instead, Dorothy Knight said “she heard an ‘overwhelming’ police presence” that included a SWAT team, according to The Mississippi Clarion Ledger.
“I had come out to get my newspaper and I saw the blue truck,” she told the newspaper, “and I knew (Longino) was here like he always is for his Sunday service.”
Hamilton, who is held without bond at Hinds County Detention Center, faces charges of “capital murder, armed robbery, auto theft and conspiracy,” according to WAPT. Matthew L. Canada, from the National Baptist Convention, said Longino was just doing what any other pastor would do on Sunday morning.
“As pastors, we have moments when we go to our study, or we go to the church,” he told WAPT, “not just to do meetings and worship, but sometimes just to be in the sanctuary.”
After the pastor’s death — and another alleged slaying that same night in Jackson at a Walmart parking lot — Jackson Mayor Chockwe Antar Lumumba announced he wants to end open carry laws in his city, according to The Mississippi Clarion Ledger.
“We shouldn’t be arming young people who haven’t matured,” he said, according to the newspaper. “I know people in the South are very attached to their firearms, but we can do some things to make it harder.”
The pastor’s family announced in a statement to WLBT that they are “thankful to everyone for their kind words & prayers during this extremely difficult time.”
“He lived his best life & enjoyed serving the community of Jackson & walked in Faith!” it read, according to the outlet. “Please keep us close to your hearts & in your prayers! His legacy: loving his family, loving people, serving his community by being a light to lead others to Christ.”
The pastor’s brother, Larry Longino, told WAPT in an interview that his sibling’s sudden death shows “the way the world is today.”
“Crime and violence,” he told the outlet.