Pastor kills brick-wielding man during church service
Violence marred a church service Sunday when a man with a brick attacked the pastor, who whipped out his Glock handgun and fired several shots, killing the man, Detroit police said.
The incident happened about 15 minutes into the 1:30 p.m. service at the City of God ministries storefront church on Grand River near Lahser, Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said.
“The #pastor had had issues with the man before,” Dolunt said. “He had been threatening him to do bodily harm. He walked into the service and went after the pastor with a brick. The pastor pulled out his #Glock and fired several shots. I think he hit him four or five times, and the man died.”
The victim was identified as Deante Smith, Dolunt said.
The pastor has not been arrested and is cooperating with authorities, Officer Jennifer Moreno said Monday.
“He was never in custody,” Moreno said Monday. “He was just brought downtown (on Sunday) for questioning regarding the incident. He stayed a couple hours, cooperated fully, and went home.”
After questioning the pastor, police will submit a warrant request to prosecutors, who will then decide whether the shooting was justified.
“We’re not sure at this point whether the man had mental problems or what,” Dolunt said. “It’s still under investigation.”
Smith had ranted on Facebook that his pastor had gotten his wife pregnant, weeks before police say he showed up with the brick Sunday during church service and attacked the minister.
Two Detroit police sources said detectives were investigating a possible love triangle between Smith, his wife and their pastor.
Dolunt said police were called to the church in September. On Sept. 16, Smith wrote that he planned to attend the church.
“Can’t wait to see Sunday message at the City of God Ministry,” he wrote. “I’ll be there with the truth.”
Later that day, Smith wrote: “This (expletive) gonna hit the fan.”
In a Sept. 15 post, Smith wrote: “That wasn’t my baby that was (his wife) and pastor(’s) baby.” That preceded a Sept. 18 rant: “This (expletive) got my (expletive) pregnant. Tick tock (expletive) and everybody with you.”
Smith posted several times in the weeks leading up to his death about the pain he was feeling about the alleged affair. On Oct. 8, he wrote: “I’m hurting, yall.”
His posts appeared to concern friends, one of whom wrote on Oct. 13, “may I ask (what) is going on with you?”
Smith replied: “I’m crazy they call me S.O.N.I.C.”
Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, who also serves as pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. Church on Detroit’s east site, said late Sunday that he had never met the City of God pastor. But concerns about security in places of worship, he said, have seemingly increased in recent months since June’s mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
“It continues to shock me,” Spivey said. “Before June, you saw things like this happen every now and then. But now it seems every week something happens at a church.”
In the wake of the Charleston shooting that left nine dead, many Detroit pastors said they planned to beef up security at their places of worship. In June, the Rev. Larry L. Simmons of Baber Memorial A.M.E. Church in northwest Detroit said he was one of them.
“Unfortunately, we had an incident about a year ago at another church in Brightmoor,” Simmons said, referring to a shooting outside the Citadel of Praise Church in July. In that incident, an off-duty police officer serving as a church security guard fatally shot an ax-wielding man who was later determined to be mentally impaired.
“That incident alerted us that our security was not right,” Simmons said. “But how do you make a place that’s open to the public completely secure? You can’t.”
Spivey said Sunday he worries over the direction churches are being pushed in as they attempt to make their congregations safer.
“Thinking far out about it, I do hope the church does not become a place where you have security like an airport…,” he said. “My concern is churches are becoming a place where you can no longer welcome people freely. And that shouldn’t happen.”
Staff Writer Jim Lynch contributed.