ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —
The man accused of stabbing four churchgoers during Sunday Mass told police that he was after the choir leader because he thought the man was a member of a secret society.
According to a criminal complaint, Lawrence Capener, 24, said he was going after the choir leader at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church because his “speech was different” and he was “99 percent sure he was a Mason.”
He told the investigator that Masons are a group involved “in a conspiracy that is far more reaching than I could or would believe.”
Capener said he stabbed the others who tried to subdue him because he thought they might be Masons, too.
The affidavit said Capener apologized for stabbing the others after he was read his rights and agreed to speak to police.
Masons are a fraternal group involved in charity and other community activities, but many of their rituals and symbols are secret.
The attack happened just before noon Sunday as the choir began its final hymn. Police and witnesses said Capener vaulted over pews and stabbed choir leader Adam Alvarez in the back.
Worshippers screamed as the shocking and chaotic scene unfolded Sunday with the attacker continuing the onslaught until he was tackled and held by church members for officers, police said.
In addition to Alvarez, three other parishioners were injured, including flutist Gerald Madrid, police spokesman Robert Gibbs said. All four were treated at hospitals and listed in stable condition.
Three other church members were evaluated by Albuquerque Fire Department on the scene and didn’t go to the hospital, investigators said.
Capener was charged late Sunday on three counts of aggravated battery and ordered held on $75,000 bail.
St. Jude Thaddeus’ pastor, the Rev. John Daniel, said Capener’s mother was “very active” in the parish and serves as a Eucharistic minister there.
“He was here occasionally but not very often,” Daniel said.
Daniel said that Capener had just graduated from a community college and appeared to be doing well after getting a job.
An off-duty firefighter and others at the church held Capener down until police arrived.
Madrid told KOB-TV that he tried to stop Capener by wrapping his arms around him but was stabbed in the neck and back.
“I bear-hugged him. We were chest on chest. I was wrapping about to take him down to ground, but I didn’t have his arms. I had just my arms around his chest, so his arms were free. So that’s when he started stabbing me,” he said.
Madrid said he thought the suspect was punching him. It wasn’t until other parishioners rushed the man that Madrid realized he had been stabbed five times.
The choir’s pianist, Brenda Baca King, told KRQE-TV that the attacker was looking at the lead soloist. “I just remember seeing him hurdle over the pews, hurdle over people and run (toward) us and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is not good,”’ Baca King said.
Daniel said he didn’t see the attack because he had turned his back away from the congregation in order to return the sacrament in the tabernacle.
Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan released a statement Sunday afternoon saying he was saddened by the attack.
“This is the first time in my 30 years serving as archbishop in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and as bishop of Lubbock, that anything like this has occurred,” Sheehan said. “I pray for all who have been harmed, their families, the parishioners and that nothing like this will ever happen again,” Sheehan said.
Daniel said Mass schedule has resumed. A 6 p.m. Monday Mass is scheduled at the 3,000 member church, he said.