Churchgoers subdue gunman at Spartanburg church - FOX Carolina 21

Churchgoers subdue gunman at Spartanburg church

Posted: Updated: March 26, 2012 10:00 AM
South Side Free Will Baptist Church is located on Upper Valley Falls Road in Boiling Springs. (Mar. 25, 2012/FOX Carolina) South Side Free Will Baptist Church is located on Upper Valley Falls Road in Boiling Springs. (Mar. 25, 2012/FOX Carolina)
From left to right: Jesse and Angela Gates (Spartanburg Co. Sheriff's Office) From left to right: Jesse and Angela Gates (Spartanburg Co. Sheriff's Office)

A Boiling Springs man and his sister are accused of breaking into and pointing a shotgun at church full of members Sunday morning in Spartanburg County.

About noon Sunday, deputies said 38-year-old Jesse Gates returned to the South Side Free Will Baptist Church on Upper Valley Falls Road in Boiling Springs, where he kicked in a door and entered the church armed with a shotgun before he was taken down by the pastor, the pastor's grandson and two church members.

Once deputies arrived Gates was taken into custody, along with his sister 34-year-old Angela Gates, and they two were transported to the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office.

Jesse Gates didn't hold back as he left sheriff's office Sunday afternoon. In front of the media, he admitted to bringing a gun to the church that morning.

"I wanted to see my kids," Jesse Gates said. When asked why he brought a gun, he answered, "Because I went there one time and they wouldn't help me."

SLIDESHOW: Boiling Springs man storms church with shotgun

Deputies said the case with Jesse Gates began early Sunday morning. Pastor Henry Guyton said Jesse Gates had been a regular at the church for the past few months - and on Sunday he showed up to the church complaining of chest pains. He was checked out, and was medically cleared, but that wasn't the last they saw of him.

"He went home," Henry Guyton said. "He came back with a gun."

The pastor's grandson, Aaron Guyton, was the one with the concealed weapons permit in the church, and said he saw Gates when he came back.

"We noticed he pulled back up," Aaron Guyton said. "We noticed he went to the trunk of his car and pulled out a shotgun, so I went out with my gun and went through the back door and locked the door."

The pastor and the parishioners said they were able to get the gun away from Jesse Gates. He was eventually arrested - and so was his sister, who's accused of aiding in the crime.

Jesse Gates said he was there because he wanted to see his children, but that part of his story didn't check out with deputies.

"He's claiming he came to see his kids," said Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright. "His kids don't go there."

While authorities try to piece everything together, the sheriff said the parishioners did everything right - including the man with the concealed weapons permit, Aaron Guyton.

"He locked the door, and they were calling 911 at the same time. He didn't draw his weapon or make any actions towards this gentleman until he forced the issue," Wright said.

The younger Guyton, for his part, said, "I think it was going to be a hostage situation and I believe someone could've gotten hurt because he was very serious. You could see it in his eyes."

The pastor of the church also said Gates never asked for help with his children, adding, "If he told us he needed help, the church would've helped him."

The sheriff is calling the churchgoers heroes, but they're being more humble about what happened.

"I don't feel like a hero," Aaron Guyton said. "I feel like I did what I needed to do."

Jesse Gates was charged with one count of second-degree burglary violent, one count of disturbing a place of worship, three counts of pointing and presenting a firearm, and one count of kidnapping.

Gates' sister Angela was charged with one count of accessory before the fact of a felony and one count of one count of accessory after the fact of a felony. Deputies said Angela Gates gave her brother the shotgun knowing what he planned use it for and went with him to church knowing what his plan was.

Jesse and Angela Gates are being held at the Spartanburg County Detention Center on no bond.

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