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Threat against Brooklyn nun's life being investigated as possible hate crime

"I'm going to kill you," a man told the nun at a Prospect Heights church.
Sister Maria Amador, a nun at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, said a stranger entered the church and threatened her life. (Amy Russo)

Police are investigating a death threat made against a nun as she prayed Wednesday inside her Brooklyn church. 

Sister Maria Amador was sitting in a pew inside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights around 2:45 p.m. on July 5 when a man entered wearing only khaki shorts and white sneakers, and carrying a baseball cap. He was caught on the church’s surveillance cameras.

Surveillance Video Captures Man Threatening to Kill Nun Inside Brooklyn Church from Diocese of Brooklyn on Vimeo.

Sister Maria said she felt it was a bit odd, but she welcomed him with a "hello." It was at that moment that he approached the pew two rows in front of hers, placed his foot on the bench and began to menace her.

“I don’t believe in this because you don’t help the poor,” he said, according to the nun.

Sister Maria began thinking about the many resources available through the church to those in need, but given the situation at hand, she refrained from speaking.

“I decided to be quiet because he was aggressive, so I didn't say anything, so he got angrier,” she said.

The suspect then demanded the nun repeat his words, saying, “Tell me what I said to you.” Sister Maria then repeated his words, claiming the church doesn’t help the poor, and the man became even angrier.

“At that moment, he came closer to me,” Sister Maria said. “He's a big and tall man so I said something's happening here.”

She began looking around for help, eyeing the one woman who was sitting in the first pew of the church. Taking notice, the man then said, “She can’t help you. I’m going to kill you.”

Sister Maria then dashed out of the pew, screaming the name of the organist who was practicing in the loft. The organist ran out and yelled at the man, “Stop! You have to leave!”

The nun ran toward the church altar, stopping to ensure the woman sitting at the front of the sanctuary was OK. Realizing the ordeal had ended, the organist comforted Sister Maria.

NYPD officers were stationed outside the church Thursday and indicated they will remain indefinitely until they feel the area is secure. The event is being investigated by police as a possible hate crime.

Sister Maria said she was glad there was a barrier between her and the suspect at the time of the incident, possibly having prevented physical harm. “Thank God we were in different benches,” she said.

The church will continue to leave its doors unlocked to maintain a welcoming environment, and Sister Maria has not been made afraid after yesterday’s occurrence.

"I'm comfortable, and I prefer that the doors are open for everyone,” she said. “I think it's better.”