New Jersey

Man Punches Priest Inside NJ Church: Police

Other priests and parishioners chased after the suspect, authorities say

A New Jersey man with a mental illness was arrested for allegedly assaulting a priest in a Newark church, police said. 

The 33-year-old suspect, of East Orange, allegedly entered St. Mary's Parish on Martin Luther King Boulevard Monday morning and slugged the Rev. Edwin Leahy in the face. 

Other priests and parishioners chased after the suspect as he ran off and spotted him approaching Broad and Market streets, the Newark Department of Public Safety said in a statement. 

The group flagged down two police officers, who arrested the suspect. 

Leahy said that he wasn't badly injured in the attack and said he was more worried about the attacker, who authorities said had failed to take medications.

"They don't have anybody to make sure they've taken medication so you wind up with people off medication," he said. "All kinds of things happen."

Another priest, the Rev. Philip Waters, said he saw the attack just inside the church's doorway. He said he could tell that the attacker wasn't mentally sound.

"I could see he wasn't right," he said. "You don't even need a medical degree to see that."

The attacker was charged with assault and held on an outstanding warrant without bail, police said.

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