Sheriff: Deputy shot armed man who disrupted church service

WAXHAW, N.C. — A sheriff’s deputy shot and wounded a man who was armed with a knife when deputies responded to a complaint that he had disrupted an outdoor church service in North Carolina on Sunday, authorities said.

Investigators were trying to determine why the man, whose injuries didn’t appear life-threatening, interrupted the service outside Oak Grove Baptist Church in Waxhaw, North Carolina, said Deputy Tony Underwood, a spokesman for the Union County Sheriff’s Office.

Underwood said the man lives across the road from the church and, from a driveway about 200 yards (182 meters) from the outdoor service, had been shouting obscenities at congregation members on Sunday and on previous occasions. Investigators suspect the man was upset about the noise from the outdoor service, according to Underwood.

“We don’t know exactly what the gentleman was upset about,” he said. “We think it’s the noise, but we’re not exactly sure.”

Restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings in North Carolina during the COVID-19 pandemic don’t apply to churches. Earlier this month, a federal judge struck down Gov. Roy Cooper’s previous limits on indoor worship services. Conservative Christian leaders sued the governor, arguing the limits violated their rights to worship freely.

The Waxhaw church’s website says worshippers can 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 says.

The deputies struggled with the armed man before using tasers to try to subdue him, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “The armed male continued fighting and a deputy eventually fired rounds from his service weapon striking the male,” the statement said.

The wounded suspect, whose name wasn’t immediately released, was taken to a Charlotte hospital. The two deputies received medical treatment, but Underwood said neither deputy was seriously injured. The wounded man faces criminal charges related to the struggle with deputies.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting because it involves a law enforcement officer.

The wounded man and the deputy who shot him are both white, according to Underwood and the sheriff’s office statement.