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A sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina shot and wounded a 54-year-old man wielding a knife in the midst of an outdoor church service on Sunday, investigators said.
The suspect, Christopher Eugene Ross, has been charged with disorderly conduct for interfering with church services, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon against law-enforcement officers and resisting and obstructing an officer. Ross remained hospitalized for what were believed to be non-life threatening injuries but will be transported to the Union County Jail when he’s discharged, police said in a statement.
Worshippers called 911 after Ross allegedly was seen yelling obscenities at churchgoers at the Oak Grove Baptist Church. One worshipper who was familiar with him tried to calm him down but Ross threw rocks at them instead, police said.
Officers struggled to apprehend Ross, initially attempting to do so with a stun gun -- and when that failed, one officer fired at the suspect two times, according to investigators.
“The armed male continued fighting and a deputy eventually fired rounds from his service weapon striking the male,” the Union County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
It wasn’t entirely clear what had sparked the disruption, although investigators said it may have been the noise of the outdoor service which was conducted over a public address system.
Earlier this month Ross reportedly was involved in another incident at the church, yelling at worshippers after parishioners blew car horns during portions of the prayer service, a practice that has since been discontinued.
Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down Gov. Roy Cooper’s previous limits on indoor worship services during the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative Christian leaders sued the governor, arguing the limits violated their rights to worship freely.
The Waxhaw church’s website indicated that worshippers could participate in its Sunday morning services in person, by Facebook or on a conference call. It planned to resume holding indoor services on May 31.
“Please remember to maintain safe social distancing practices,” the site read.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was investigating the shooting because it involved a law-enforcement officer.
Waxhaw is about 30 miles southeast of Charlotte.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.