A Tennessee pastor is being hailed for preventing a possible tragedy after he tackled down and disarmed a man who pulled a gun on him and other church members during service on Sunday.
Police said the suspect, identified as 26-year-old Dezire Baganda, had joined parishioners at the Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal Church for Sunday service, WKRN reported. But things later took a dramatic turn after video footage showed him pulling out a gun and making his way to the altar. The pastor and the other parishioners were praying in the moments leading up to the incident.
After walking up the altar, authorities said Baganda brandished and pointed the weapon at the congregation and ordered them to stand up. But that was when Pastor Ezekiel Ndikumana sprung into action. “He wanted to kill, that’s what first came to my mind,” Ndikumana said.
“He was standing in the front of almost everybody. No one was behind him yet, so he could have done anything,” Nzojibugami Noe, a choir member who witnessed the incident, also said.
In the video of the incident, Baganda can be seen getting up from where he’s seated before pulling out a gun and making his way to the altar. But while issuing out the instructions to the congregation, Ndikumana can be seen making his way towards an exit before he quietly walks behind Baganda and tackles him to the ground. Other church members are subsequently seen helping Ndikumana restrain Baganda.
“I would say that God used me because I felt like I was going to use the back door as an example as going on by trying to go behind him. And then I felt the feeling that I would go and grab him… and that’s what happened,” Ndikumana said.
Though Baganda had worshipped at the church before, the pastor said he wasn’t a member of their congregation. In February, Baganda was also told to not come to the church anymore because he had been interrupting pastors while they were delivering sermons. But despite that, church members said he wasn’t violent, WKRN reported.
An arrest affidavit also stated that Baganda told officers he was Jesus and “all churches and schools need to be shot up.” And though Ndikumana is being lauded for his heroics, he said what happened was God’s doing. The pastor is originally from Burundi.
“God wanted to show that he’s a powerful God,” Ndikumana said. “One main thing I said, we had faith.”
Baganda initially faced 15 counts of felony aggravated assault. The charges were, however, upgraded to 57 counts of felony aggravated assault on Monday.
WATCH — NORTH NASHVILLE — “man walks up to the altar with a gun at Nashville Light Mission Pentecostal Church, waves it around, points it at congregation… pastor Ezekiel Ndikumana prays, heroically tackles him and he’s disarmed without a shot fired…” https://t.co/4grV1jC0p7 pic.twitter.com/i2TESKE9Cl— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) November 8, 2021