FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A man was arrested after he attacked a Pompano Beach deacon who was in the middle of a service.
It happened last Saturday at St. Coleman Catholic Church.
Video from inside the church shows the man sitting in one of the front pews. He then runs up and ambushes the deacon, trying to take him down. The two men struggle, then several parishioners rush to the deacon’s aid. They separated the two men and checked to make sure the deacon was OK.
Police arrested 28-year-old Thomas Eisel for the attack. He’s now facing several charges, including battery. Police said Eisel was on probation at the time of the attack.
Jeff Yastine is a parishioner and also the husband of a CBS4 staff member. He was at church when it happened. He raced to help.
“I just tried to get my arm in there to help pry one of this guy’s arms off of him,” he said. “Other people were doing the same from their vantage points. And together we just wrested control of him and got him on the ground.”
BSO Lt. Steve Feeley was off duty and at mass. He was sitting a few rows behind the man who attacked the deacon.
“Just prior to him getting up I asked my wife, I said, ‘Go to the back and tell them something’s going to happen,’” he said.
He knew something was wrong.
“As we kind of watched him, he got very, very fidgety,” Lt. Feeley said. “[He] started giving thumbs up to people around at church. Something just didn’t look right.”
Yastine told CBS4 while they had Eisel on the ground, he started praying.
“Something was clearly troubling this young man,” Yastine said. “When we got him to the ground first he was saying, ‘Help me, Father. Help me, Father,’ and then he was muttering some prayers and we were actually saying a few prayers with him just to get him to calm down and to relax until the deputies got there.”
Parishioners told CBS4 that Eisel was not a member of the congregation.
The Archdiocese of Miami issued a statement, which read:
“This is an unfortunate incident that occurred during mass and we are blessed and thankful that no one was hurt and the young man will receive the help he needs.”
There’s no word on a possible motive for the attack.