Congregation mourns slain church leader

May 27, 2008 2:22:10 PM PDT
A congregation is mourning a church leader shot and killed in the middle of a church fundraiser. It was a happy occasion - a peaceful church fundraiser until the unimaginable, a crazed gunman opens fire, killing a church deacon. Police say, if not for some quick acting parishioners, it might have been much worse.

Delaware State Police Cpl. Jeffrey Whitmarsh told reporters on Monday, "You bring 150 rounds of ammo with you, you plan on taking out more than one person."

Police say 58-year-old Monir George of Whitehall, Pennsylvania was armed to the teeth when he went to the Christiana Hilton last night. He had a load of ammo and two high powered handguns. Police say he stood up and opened fire just as 63-year old Malak Michael finished talking about a new church the parish is planning to build.

Michael died from a bullet to the chest.

Sam Michael says his father didn't know the gunman. He and his family are stunned. "He did not have a bad bone in his body. He was just a good man."

The police say George may have intended to shoot all of the church leaders but was tackled before he could get off more than three shots. The room was packed with about 80 men, women and children.

Cpl. Whitmarsh says, "I absolutely believe that if that hero, if you will, did not step forward and tackle him down we would be dealing with a much more traumatic situation this morning."

Police say George is a former parishioner and seems to have been upset by a litany of grievances. St. Mary's Coptic Christian Church is a small parish in Elkton, Maryland. George may also have been upset about plans to build a new church in Delaware.

Michael was a church deacon and head of the construction committee.

"He was loved by so many people. And he was a leader in the church," said the church's pastor, Rev. Father Mina.

Grieving relatives and friends gathered at Michael's home in Bear, Delaware today. He leaves behind his wife, three children and four grandchildren.

Sam Michael says, "My dad did not deserve this. My dad, his family needs him... he only had a couple years left to go before his retirement. And now we'll just have to pick up the pieces and move on."

It will be tough to move on after this incomprehensible eruption of violence at a church gathering. The police have charged George with first degree murder, but they may never understand why he did it.