By: Tim Stelloh
Bishop Larry Wright had been preaching for about 20 minutes on New Year’s Eve when he saw the front door of his North Carolina church swing open.
In marched a young disheveled man whom he’d never seen before. In one hand the man had a semi-automatic assault rifle; in the other, a magazine.
As the man approached the pulpit — and as Wright carefully moved toward him — some of the 60 or so congregants at Wright’s Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville believed the gunman was a prop, Wright told NBC News, that their pastor was using an unusual method to emphasize a point he had been making at that precise moment about gun violence: “At any moment your life could be taken from you.”
Wright, 57, is a City Council member. But he was also a career military man — a former paratrooper and drill sergeant who retired in 1997 — so his training kicked in as he descended the pulpit’s three steps: Was there a bullet still in the chamber? Would he need to tackle the man? Would he need to subdue him?
Wright began with a simple question.
“I asked him, ‘Can I help you?'” Wright recalled. “He said, ‘Can you pray for me?'”
Read more of the story and see the video interview at NBCNews NBCBLK.