NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is questioning a 45-year-old man after someone threatened to kill a Brooklyn nun while she prayed inside her church.
A person of interest with 40 prior arrests was brought in for questioning after someone recognized him from surveillance video.
Investigators say Sister Maria Amador’s prayers were interrupted and her life threatened Wednesday by a man inside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights.
“I thought this is my last day,” Sister Maria Amador told CBS2’s Magdalena Doris. “I said he is very strong and I don’t know, have many opportunities here. Thank God I am safe and I could run away.”
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, police are now questioning a 45-year-old man.
Surveillance video shows the shirtless man heading into the church. He is then seen approaching Sister Amador, who is Mother Superior of her convent, sitting by herself at a pew in prayer.
Investigators say as he got closer, he said, “I don’t believe in this because you don’t help poor people.”
When the nun did not respond out of fear, he became agitated. As Sister Amador looked around for help, she spotted a woman in another pew.
“I started to look at the woman trying to say, ‘OK, I need help,'” she said. “But he said, ‘She can’t help you and I am going to kill you.'”
That’s when the nun took off running towards the altar, all the while yelling for help.
“I started to scream and the organist was practicing at that time,” she said.
The suspect quickly left and while investigators search for the man, Sister Amador is extending her compassion, despite the threats made against her.
“I can say, ‘OK, I forgive you,'” she said. “I think maybe he is sick, maybe he needs something.”
The church will stay open to the public as usual, but police have been stationed outside since early Thursday morning and plan to stay until the church closes.
“To us, were kind of disturbed by the fact that he approached her because she was a nun,” Monsignor Keiran Harrington told CBS2’s Reena Roy. “There was someone else in the church, but he approached her because she was a religious person.”
Meanwhile, parishioners have been showing support to Sister Amador — mother superior of her convent.
“I just wanna tell her that we’re here for her, and we lover her,” Nancy Cardinale said.
The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating.
Police describe the suspect as a bald, black man, about 6’2″ tall and around 200 pounds. He was wearing khaki shorts.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782), visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.