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Mich. Church Killing Said 3rd of Feud

April 1, 2003

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ A man stood up during a church service and shot another man to death in what a prosecutor said was the third killing in a years-long feud stemming from a rape.

At least seven people suffered minor injuries trying to flee St. Paul’s Albanian Church on Sunday, some by leaping out windows, authorities said. Most of the injuries were cuts and bruises.

Oakland County sheriff’s Capt. Michael McCabe identified the man in custody Monday as Gjon Pepaj, 38, of Rochester Hills. Charges might not be filed until Tuesday because of the number of witnesses investigators planned to interview, McCabe said.

Witness Luigi Gjokaj said the gunman stood up and yelled ``Yes, I am here,″ then shot Gjek Sufaj, 38, in the back of the head. He shot Sufaj several more times, then fired into the air and yelled ``I done what I was supposed to do,″ Gjokaj said.

Authorities and witnesses said the shooting was the result of a six-year vendetta.

Prosecutor David Gorcyca said Sunday’s killing was the third involving the two families.

Gorcyca said a preliminary investigation indicated the feud started when a female member of one family was raped by a male from the other. He said the rapist was imprisoned, but he did not know the outcome of the homicide cases. He gave no details.

Some of the approximately 1,400 churchgoers fled after the shots, most running for the doors while a few leapt through windows, Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. The suspect was wrestled to the ground by nearby worshippers, one of whom was injured.

The suspect was at the service with his children, ages 11 and 13.

``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.″

``Our prayers and condolences go out to the family of the victim,″ the Rev. Anton Kqira said.

Bouchard said investigators found two handguns and at least eight shell casings, and the suspect had a spare magazine in his pocket. He said the victim was struck by a couple of bullets that went through the back of the pew.

``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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