Armed pastor holds Tampa church burglary suspect at gunpoint until police arrived

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A burglary suspect picked the wrong church to break into. 

The suspect is in custody after police said he broke into Seminole Heights Baptist Church, located at 801 East Hillsborough Avenue, early Thursday morning. Brant Adams, the lead pastor at the church, told FOX 13 that he personally held the suspect, later identified as Miguel Otero-Rivera, at gunpoint until police responded minutes later. 

Shortly before 1a.m. Thursday, Rivera entered the church by smashing a window with a brick before rifling through several church offices, police said. Church leaders believed the suspect was looking for cash.

The broken glass set off the alarm system. Pastor Adams, along with church deacon Jack Young, were immediately notified. Adams said he lives near the church.

Adams, armed with a gun, said he found Rivera inside the church. Police said the suspect was holding a laptop computer owned by the church. Adams ordered him onto the ground, holding him there until police arrived. 

“I walked in and I saw him coming out of the director of Mission Tampa’s office with his back to me,” Adams explained. “He’s looking down at his hand, and I didn’t know what he had in his hand, so I pulled the gun through the window. I sort of stood behind the door but where he could see me. I took the gun, pointed at him, and told him to get down. I yelled at him and said ‘Hey, get down!’ He put his hands up, went to the ground.”

Adams said he did not directly engage with Rivera and never went any closer than ten feet from him. He was arrested and taken into custody. Police said he was not armed.

No one was hurt in the attempted burglary, although the pastor said there was some blood through the church after Rivera cutting himself on the glass. 

Pastor Adams said he had hoped he would never find himself in the position he was in Thursday morning, but now that he has, he said he’s glad that he came prepared. The pastor went on to say that if someone is struggling and in need of help, stealing is never the answer.

"The simple message is if you need help, ask for it. You don't need to steal," he said. "There's some many things that we try to do to help people. If he would've just come to the back door and knocked and ask for something, said, 'I need some food.' We would've given him some food."

Rivera faces several charges including burglary, grand theft and drug possession.