An Adventist church choir in Jamaica saved the life of an accused robber who sought refuge from a mob that killed one of his friends, a local church leader said Thursday.
The unidentified suspect ran into the Harrison Adventist Church in the city of Montego Bay after being chased by an angry crowd that accused him and three friends of robbing and stabbing a woman in a nearby shopping district on Tuesday night, said Glen O. Samuels, president of the Adventist Church’s West Jamaica Conference.
The badly wounded suspect collapsed in a chair behind the pulpit as members of the church choir, who were taking part in a rehearsal, quickly locked the doors and called the police, Samuels said.
Two members of the crowd, however, managed to get inside the church and rushed to the pulpit, he said.
“The choir director pleaded with them to stop,” Samuels said by phone. “If it had not been for the choir director and choir members intervening, they would have killed him.”
The suspect was hospitalized with multiple stab wounds, and he remained in critical condition and under police guard on Thursday, Samuels said.
Police have opened an investigation.
The incident started around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, when four assailants attacked a woman walking through a bustling shopping district to the Catherine Hall Sports Complex, where regional soccer finals were being held, the Jamaica Observer newspaper reported Thursday.
The woman screamed when the attackers grabbed her cell phone and handbag. The four men apparently responded by stabbing her.
“The crowd probably wouldn’t have done anything if they had only taken her cell phone, but they also attacked her,” Samuels said. “We have had a number of these holdups, and I think that we have gotten to the point where people are fed up.”
Passersby quickly formed a mob that set off after the attackers. Two suspects escaped, and the crowd stabbed the other two during a wild chase down the street. One of them, 17-year-old Jevaughn Wilmot, died near the Harrison church, while his friend fled inside and made a beeline for the platform, leaving puddles of blood everywhere.
“He may have heard the story about grasping the horns of the altar,” Samuels said, in a nod to the Old Testament law that a person could not be killed if he held onto the horns of the altar in the temple.
Church members spent the better part of Tuesday night scrubbing and disinfecting the church, the Jamaica Observer said.
Samuels, who visited the church on Wednesday evening, noticed a significantly larger turnout that the usual 70 members for the weekly prayer meeting. He said people were probably curious to see the church after the incident, which has been widely discussed in Montego Bay, a popular tourist destination with duty-free shopping and a population of a little less than 100,000. The Harrison church, one of 20 Adventist churches in the area, has a membership of 300.
Local Adventist churches have been working to educate crime-weary Jamaicans against resorting to vigilante justice, and Samuels expressed hope that this week’s incident would set an example of how to respond to injustice in a Christ-like manner.
“Our mission goes beyond preaching the gospel,” he said. “We need to make the community a better place.”
Jamaica Observer, Nov. 20, 2014: "Church Saves Robber"