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Gunman Kills Man in Michigan Church

March 31, 2003

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ A gunman stood up during a church service Sunday and repeatedly shot a man with whom he had been feuding, killing him. At least seven people were injured trying to flee the building, some by leaping out windows, authorities said.

The priest at St. Paul’s Albanian Church was preparing to distribute the sacrament when the attacker stood up, yelled, ``Yes, I am here″ and shot the victim in the back of the head and several more times after that, said witness Luigi Gjokaj, 42. He then fired into the air and yelled, ``I done what I was supposed to do.″

Some of the approximately 1,000 churchgoers fled after the shots, most running for the doors while a few leapt through windows, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. The suspect was wrestled to the ground by nearby worshippers, one of whom was injured as he sought to subdue him.

The shooter was in custody Sunday evening, but had not yet been charged, police said. His identity was not released.

``I first thought it was a terrorist attack,″ said Gjokaj, 42. ``It’s a really tragic event for us in the Albanian community. I never thought in my life something would happen like this.″

Both authorities and witnesses said the shooting was the result of a six-year vendetta. Gjokaj, who said he knew both the suspect and the victim, said one had once been best man at the other’s wedding, but that they since have been feuding.

Neither man was a member of the church, and it was unclear whether the shooting resulted from a chance encounter or whether it was premeditated.

Police did not identify the victim Sunday pending notification of his family.

Bouchard said at least eight shell casings were recovered by the crime scene unit and that the shooter had a spare magazine in his pocket. He also said the victim was struck by a couple of bullets through the back of the pew. Two handguns also were recovered.

At least seven churchgoers were treated for minor injuries on the scene and at least four were being transported to area hospitals, Bouchard said. He said most of the injuries _ primarily cuts and bruises _ appeared to have been sustained when people tried to flee.

``It’s sad that someone would do this anywhere,″ Bouchard said. ``But to have it happen in a church makes it worse.″

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