Gunman robs pastor at Elkridge church

Purse taken as woman was leaving services

April 19, 1999|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

After a gunman robbed the Rev. Kathleen S. Russell outside her church in Howard County yesterday, she said a prayer of thankfulness that she wasn't harmed and another prayer for the robber.

"During the incident, I was too upset to think of anything to say, but I said a prayer when it was over and after I calmed down," said Russell, 52, pastor associate at Grace Episcopal Church in the 6700 block of Montgomery Road in Elkridge.

Russell said she also prayed that the robber would seek help and turn his life around before he harms someone.

Russell told police that as she was leaving Grace Episcopal about 11 a.m., she noticed a man sitting on the front steps. Nearby, several children who had attended services were playing.

Russell said she acknowledged the man and walked to a pasture behind the church, where she admired several horses before she continued walking to her car.

Russell said she was about to enter her car when the man approached her from behind. Russell said when she turned to the man, he had a gun. He demanded her money and threatened to kill her, she said.

"I don't know much about guns, but it looked like a real one to me," she said.

With the gun pointed at her, Russell said, she gave the man her purse containing $17, credit cards, driver's license and other personal items. She said she had car keys and a prayer book in the other hand.

Russell watched as the man quickly walked toward woods.

"He was several feet from me," she said, "when he turned around and threatened me again with words you can't use in a family newspaper."

Russell said she was wearing an ecclesiastical collar.

"The man didn't seem to pay any attention to that [the collar] and I think he was acting out of desperation for money," she said.

Russell said if the man had asked her for money, she would have given him some. If he had gone into the church seeking money, someone would have helped him, she said.

Russell said she received support from family and friends at church after the robbery.

"I'm trained in grief counseling," she said, "and I now know how upsetting it can be to be a victim of crime and come very close to being killed by someone, who could have reacted violently in a flash."

Pub Date: 4/19/99

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