Cathedral Guide Recalls Encounter with Gunman - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/07/03

Cathedral Guide Recalls Encounter with Gunman

Stuart Smith Stuart Smith

This morning around 9am, a man walked into the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with a gun in his hand and a can of lighter fluid, forcing everyone out at gunpoint while he starting dousing the sanctuary with lighter fluid. Peggy Baker recalled the scariest moment of her life, saying, "My whole life flashed in front of me, my girls, my grandchildren, everything."

She is a guide at the cathedral. Each day, she greets people from all over the world, but today she noticed a stranger milling around the alter area. "He had a can of lighter fluid and he was lighting the cushions on fire and I asked him what he was doing and he told me to stand back," she said. "At first, 'I said you can't do that,' and he pointed a gun."

Baker ran out of the main cathedral, screaming for help, and Monsignor O'Neill stepped in. "Monsignor ran in there and in front of the man with a gun, put out the cushions in front of the man with a gun," said Baker. "The man was going from thing to thing to burn."

Both fled for their safety as the suspect continued to burn parts of the altar. Police arrived on the scene and shortly after were able to remove the man, identified as 31-year-old Stuart Smith of Marietta, Georgia.

Reported by: Kim Angelastro, kangelastro@wtoc.com

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