Man fatally shot during church Mass

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Police fatally shot a man Sunday morning inside of a small Catholic church in Northwest Nebraska.

Sheridan County sheriff’s deputy fatally shot a man near the entrance of the Rushville, Nebraska church. The incident happened as the pastor was reading the long Gospel narrative of Christ’s suffering.

Police later identified the man as Clarence Leading Fighter, 32. He was a suspect in a separate assault that occurred less than an hour earlier, the Nebraska state patrol said.

Authorities report that the officer used deadly force to protect him and the parishioners from potential serious harm. There were anywhere from 100 to 150 people attending the Palm Sunday mass at Immaculate Conception Church.

Deputies cleared the church out immediately after the shooting. The mass was ended abruptly. Rev. Joseph K. Joseph said the incident was traumatic for all those in attendance.

The pastor said that as he was reading the gospel, he heard something that sounded as If someone had passes out. His mind then went to the thought of a terrorist attack. He saw commotion near the glass and people who he didn’t initially recognize as law enforcement officers.

Joseph ducked under the alter. Many of the parishioners took cover in the pews or ran outside through side doors.

State Patrol said the victim in the earlier assault involving Leading Fighter suffered a broken arm. That assault occurred at a Rushville home at about 10:20 a.m. The shooting occurred at roughly 11 a.m.

Joseph said confessions for Sunday were also canceled. He hopes the church will be available for Holy Thursday. Catholics are now entering the holiest days of the year.

Joseph said that the head of the Grand Island Diocese was looking into whether the church would have to be reconsecrated after the fatal shooting.

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