NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A man is accused of terrorizing congregants at the Ancient Spanish Monastery in North Miami Beach, barging in during Sunday morning's service and threatening to shoot the priest in the face, police said.
Jorge Arizamendoza, 33, faces charges of disturbing a religious assembly and aggravated assault at a religious institution.
Annetta Gordon was one of about 140 people attending the service when a man, later identified by police as Arizamendoza, shook the wooden doors to the chapel and demanded to speak to the priest.
Police said Arizamendoza yelled at everyone not to attend Mass there.
Gordon said terrified congregants tried to get away.
"There was a woman in an electric wheelchair who was trying to get out, and they were jumping over her," Gordon told Local 10 News.
The Rev. Gregory Mansfield said the man sounded "deranged."
"He spun around as he talked, (looking) not just at me, but people in the congregation," Mansfield said.
Police said Arizamendoza, who would come to church for homeless feedings years ago, drove from Silver Springs, Maryland, to the Ancient Spanish Monastery with the intent to do harm.
"The defendant stated that if he would've had it his way and the officers were not there working the detail, that he was going to lock up the place, take everyone hostage and kill everyone inside," a North Miami Beach police detective told Judge Martin Shapiro during Arizamendoza's bond hearing Monday morning.
Police were there Sunday because Arizamendoza had been seen vandalizing the Ancient Spanish Monastery twice earlier in the week.
According to police reports, Arizamendoza threw a rock at the electronic sign in front of the monastery, causing about $2,000 in damage.
The next day, according to the reports, Arizamendoza used a large tool to smash a video camera at the monastery and behead a priceless 800-year-old stone statue of Alphonsus VII.
"He could have chosen maybe a hundred churches in Miami, but this is one with whom he had first-hand experience," Mansfield said.
Arizamendoza's bond was set at $92,500. As a condition for his release, Arizamendoza must surrender his U.S. and Colombian passports.