Knife-Wielding Attack at Long Beach Church Highlights Urgent Need for Mental Health Reform


      Church services at Christ Second came to a violent halt on Sunday, March 18 when a knife-wielding homeless man attempted to assault Senior Pastor Welton Pleasant and set fire to the Long Beach church he pastors. The suspect—now facing charges of assault with a deadly weapon and acts of terrorism—was apprehended by police after the distressing incident that occurred during the praise and worship segment of the service.

      Captured in part on video, the confrontation saw the assailant—a man with mental health challenges and previous ties to the church—advancing towards the front of the church with a knife as the praise and worship portion of his Sunday morning service was underway. He was swiftly intercepted by an associate minister, who is also a former police officer, with the aid of the church’s security team, when he was barely four feet from the praise and worship team.

      “It was pretty traumatic,” remarked Pleasant, who subsequently arranged for trauma therapists to support church members shaken by the event. 

      The attacker, who had also brought gasoline and a lighter, admitted to police his intent to set the church ablaze. He remains in jail with bail set at $40,000.

      The incident marked the third encounter between Pleasant and the assailant. Five years ago, the man physically attacked Pleasant during a Sunday service, which led to heightened security measures at the church, including a ban on backpacks. 

      “Mental illness is really real, and it is a tragedy that our nation has not really responded in a meaningful way to address the homelessness and mental illness situation as they should. It really puts the victim in a very bad position. 

      “The real tragedy is the overarching issue of mental illness and homelessness in our nation, which remains inadequately addressed. There are people in our churches that have mental problems that we just kind of ignore and overlook but some people really need to have those mental issues addressed,” Pleasant added. “Situations like this underscore the urgent need for greater awareness and intervention for those suffering from mental health issues within our communities and in our churches.

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