Man shot in church while praying during armed robbery

A man who was praying during church service was shot by an armed robber, but is recovering, police said.

It happened Sunday morning at Centro Cristiano De Columbia Church in Columbia, South Carolina, as parishioners were praying, WLTX reported.

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A man walked into the church, fired into the air and at a man, hitting him, and demanded money, WACH reported. The injured man, identified as Esvin Perez, suffered a stomach wound, WLTX reported.

As the rest of the church attendees took cover under chairs, the pastor said the gunman fired again for about a minute, until he started hitting the gun. Parishioners thought the gun malfunctioned, WLTX reported.

Police believe the gunman chose the church at random.

The pastor, however, said if the gunman had entered the church later in the day, the bloodshed could have been worse with more members, including children, attending service.

"We don't know what's happening with this country when we have gotten to a point where we don't feel safe praying in a church. If this would have happened in a service where we would have had all of the children and more people, it would have been a massacre," Pastor Henry Alfaro told WLTX in Spanish and translated by the television station.

The gunman has not been identified, and police said he got away with a few wallets.

Still, despite the attack on his church, Alfaro is still praying for the man.

"The person who did this, what he needs is a change, in the path of his life and it's a change that only Jesus Christ can give. We're praying for him so God can help him," Alfaro told WLTX.

Perez was taken to a local hospital and underwent surgery, WACH reported.

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