NEWTOWN, Conn. (CBS/AP) — Worshippers hurriedly left a church Sunday in Connecticut, saying they were told there was a bomb threat not far from the elementary school where 20 kids and six adults were massacred.
Halfway through the noon mass, the priest stopped and said, “Please, everybody leave. There is a threat,” said Anna Wood of Oxford, Conn., one of the worshippers who left.
It’s not clear whether there actually was a threat or if, like many tragedies, whether it was a hoax or the result of a community on edge.
At least a dozen police in camouflage SWAT gear and carrying guns arrived at the St. Rose of Lima Church. An Associated Press photographer saw police leave carrying something in a red tarp.
Guns drawn, they searched the church and adjacent buildings. After about an hour, police still kept onlookers back but were no longer carrying drawn guns and appeared much more relaxed than the tense period after their arrival.
There was no official report from police about the threat or evacuation.
Gunman Adam Lanza, his mother and eight of the child victims attended St. Rose of Lima. It is a Roman Catholic Church with an adjacent school, which Lanza attended briefly.
The church hosted overflow crowds at all three morning Masses Sunday.
Wood said everyone left calmly but described a congregation edge. One boy, about 9, left with his mother.
“He asked his mom, ‘Mom, why are we leaving?,” Wood recalled. “The mom couldn’t answer. She just started crying.”
Police say there’s no danger at a Connecticut church following the phoned-in threat.
Deborah Metz, a Trumbull police officer on the scene, gave the all-clear after an hour in which armed police in SWAT gear searched the church and adjacent buildings.
The evacuation unnerved worshippers in the wake of the worst shooting of school-age children in U.S. history.
Police say the church will be on lockdown for the rest of the day.
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