Armed man's odd behavior in N. Charleston church gets off-duty, retired officers' notice

Awaken Church, Leeds Avenue, North Charleston, S.C. (Google Earth).jpg
Awaken Church, Leeds Avenue, North Charleston, S.C. (Google Earth)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Two police officers, one off-duty and one retired, didn’t ignore what they felt was strange behavior by a man attending their North Charleston church Sunday.

Their watchful eye led to police arresting a man accused of illegally carrying a fully loaded 9mm pistol and an extra magazine into the church.

North Charleston Police announced Monday that the suspect, who initially was charged with unlawful carrying of a firearm, had been taken to a health facility for a mental evaluation.

The 23-year-old Folly Road man reportedly was behaving oddly and seemed quite nervous while attending worship service at Awaken Church on Leeds Avenue Sunday.

The man’s behavior caught the eye of a retired Charleston Police Department officer, according to a North Charleston PD incident report. The retired officer said the man was constantly looking over his shoulders and scanning the room, police say.

According to NCPD, .the retired officer says the suspect later ran out of the church and shoved a church member after the congregation was asked to greet and fellowship with other churchgoers.

That’s when the retired officer alerted an off-duty North Charleston PD officer also at the church. The off-duty officer told police he met with the suspect in the lobby, where the man reportedly told him he suffered from PTSD from being a law enforcement officer himself.

According to the off-duty officer, the suspect made quick, jerky movements while they talked, and was constantly checking over both shoulders and backing against a wall anytime someone would walk by

A on-duty NCPD officer called to the church reports the suspect got up and left the sanctuary again upon his arrival.

NCPD later arrested the suspect after the retired officer noticed a pistol magazine in the man’s back pocket. That’s when police say they found the loaded pistol and extra ammunition hidden beneath the man’s jacket.

Later, police say they searched the man’s SUV, and found an open box of 9mm ammunition on the passenger’s seat, and a second loaded pistol in center console. The man told officers he’d bought the cartridges on his way to church that morning, police say.

Police say the man did not have a concealed weapon permit.

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the suspect had not been booked into the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center.