OC church evacuated after reports of gunman in area; video captures moment police interrupt service

In video obtained by Eyewitness News, you can hear officers telling churchgoers to put their hands up.

Leticia Juarez Image
Tuesday, January 16, 2024
OC church evacuated following reports of gunman in area
Alarming video captured the moment police rushed into a Placentia church in the middle of a service after a shooting was reported in the area.

PLACENTIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Alarming video captured the moment police rushed into a Placentia church in the middle of a Mass after a shooting was reported in the area.

Officers with the Placentia Police Department received a call about gunfire near Saint Joseph Catholic Church on Bradford Avenue early Tuesday morning.

Two witnesses reported hearing shots fired and at least one person reported seeing a man with a gun on church grounds.

Officers entered the sanctuary and took a man into custody who matched a description and was sitting in a pew. The church was conducting its morning Mass livestream when officers interrupted the service.

In the video obtained by Eyewitness News, a priest is seen standing at the altar and holding the eucharist and chalice as police officers enter the church and begin shouting at startled parishioners to put their hands up

The man who was taken into custody has not been identified. He was still being interviewed around 11:30 a.m., according to police.

"I was a couple of rows in front of the guy that they were looking ... and then during the Mass, I heard a commotion in the back so I turned around, and I saw the SWAT officers came and took the guy, which was a couple of rows behind me," said parishioner Imelda Craig. "Anywhere you go, there's always something potentially happening, you just have to be aware of yourself."

No injuries were reported.

Gary Garrison, a plumber, was at a building next door that is undergoing renovation.

"We heard noise and we thought it was a backfire at first," Garrison said, "but we didn't see no cars. And then I obviously thought it was a gunshot."

Late Tuesday morning, officers were still at the church, working to determine if shots were actually fired. At last check, they were still looking for a possible firearm.

"As of right now, we have not been able to locate a handgun or any evidence of a shot being fired," said Placentia PD Sgt. Joe Connell. "However, we did have multiple witnesses that called our dispatch center, saying they heard shots being fired."

As a precaution, several nearby schools were locked down, including Valencia High School, which is located across the street from the church. No injuries were reported at the school.

The incident remains under investigation.