An armed man who entered a Southern California church in between Masses died on Sunday after an officer-involved shooting, the authorities said.
The episode happened at about 4:15 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Santa Ana, Calif., according to a police spokesman, who said that officers had been responding to two unrelated calls in the immediate vicinity when witnesses reported that an armed man went inside the building.
The spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, said the authorities did not know if the man was killed by the police, or if he fatally shot himself. The authorities previously said they believed the man was shot by an officer in the church.
Corporal Bertagna was not able to say whether the man fired his weapon at the officer or how many shots were fired by the officer.
“This individual is believed to have been distraught over some family issues and was potentially inside the church to do harm to himself,” Corporal Bertagna said. “We got extremely lucky in the fact that this was between Masses.”
Corporal Bertagna said there were about 15 people inside the church, none of who were harmed. He said the man fled from the church and collapsed in the street about 100 yards from the building, where he was pronounced dead.
The officer was wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting and it was activated, according to Corporal Bertagna, who said that the district attorney’s office, homicide investigators and internal affairs officers would be reviewing the episode.
Alejandro Lopez, 18, a parishioner of the church, said his family was on the way to a Spanish-language Mass scheduled at 5 p.m. when they were blocked by police tape. There were dozens of cars leaving the area and nearly 50 people had gathered around the church to see what was happening, he said.
“When approaching the church, I was wondering why there was so much police present but I was not immediately worried,” Mr. Lopez said. “Once I saw the helicopter flying by and the whole street locked up, I thought that this could be something big.”
Mr. Lopez said he has gone to this church his whole life. It’s where his parents were married and where he attended elementary school.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mr. Lopez said.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Church is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, which is the seventh-largest diocese in the country. The parish has a membership of 6,375 families, according to the church’s website. The church offers Masses in Spanish, Vietnamese and English.