As they are before most worship services, the doors of Boiling Springs' NC South Side Freewill Baptist Church were open on Sunday morning.
Sheriff Chuck Wright:
“I like the fact that a concealed weapons permit holder was prepared to protect the worshippers.”
Wright made national headlines in October when a man attacked a woman at Milliken Park during the day, urging residents to obtain concealed weapons permits and arm themselves. Earlier this year, Wright praised a concealed weapons permit holder who shot and killed a would-be robber at a Waffle House on Chesnee Highway.
“I hope the bad guys are watching, because we are tired of your nonsense,” Wright said. “People are simply protecting their families. Prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen.”
The Rev. Henry Guyton, pastor of the church, said Jesse Gates, who has attended worship services at the church on Upper Valley Falls Road as recently as Wednesday, came to the door about 10 a.m. on Sunday.
“He came in before the service and acted like he was having a heart attack,” Guyton, 71, said. “He asked us to call Channel 7 news. I called 911 instead.”
Sheriff Chuck Wright said deputies and Spartanburg EMS arrived, and checked out Gates, and Gates left.
About 11:20 a.m., Jesse Gates returned to the church. The Rev. Guyton's grandson, Aaron Guyton, 26, was in the recreation building separate from the church and saw Gates get a shotgun from the trunk of his car.
“At that point, I knew I had to do something,” Aaron Guyton said. “I wanted to try to contain him outside.”
Aaron Guyton went into the main building and locked the doors.
Henry Guyton said he was in the pulpit, preaching about how Jesus spoke the word of God and healed the sick, when Gates kicked open the side door of the sanctuary and entered with the shotgun, pointing it at the pastor and congregation.
Church members, including Aaron Guyton, a concealed weapons permit holder, acted quickly.
Aaron Guyton held Gates at gunpoint, as church members Jesse Smith and Leland Powers held him on the floor and waited for deputies to arrive. The Rev. Guyton said he stepped onto a chair, climbed down a 3-foot bannister surrounding the pulpit and took the shotgun from Jesse Gates.
“The gun was loaded,” Henry Guyton said. “I said, ‘Jesse, what did you do it for?' He said, ‘They took my children and won't let me see them.' I'm glad the Lord took care of everything. The police did a good job too.”
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