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Man dies after outburst in Indian Lake church

Monday, June 30, 2014 - Updated: 10:00 AM

By PETE KLEIN

For The Recorder

INDIAN LAKE -- A violent outburst in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church on West Main Street here Saturday resulted in one death and two injuries.

The incident began around 4:45 p.m., near the close of afternoon services, when Jason M. Berg, 44, of Indian Lake, who had been sitting in a back pew, got up and began yelling obscenities while advancing toward the altar where Father Philip Allen was reciting the closing prayer, according to witnesses.

According to Allen, he thought he heard the man scream, "Pray for me" after Allen said, "Pray for us."

Then, Allen said, Berg rushed up to the altar, continuing to scream angrily, and backhanded candlesticks into the pews, where their heavy bases cut two people.

"There were about 50 people at the service," Allen said. "He was very disturbed."

Allen said an altar boy, Jeff DeShaw, saved the day by tackling Berg. Some parishioners then helped hold Berg down, he said.

Allen said the 17-year-old altar server is about 50 pounds lighter than Berg. He said Berg struggled violently and eventually stopped moving.

According to a State Police press release, "Responding troopers and Hamilton County sheriff's deputies arrived on scene and determined no shots had been fired in the church and that the suspect was unresponsive.

Berg was armed with a loaded .45-caliber pistol, police said, a spare magazine, several rounds of ammunition and a pocket knife. Berg violently resisted while being subdued and disarmed by parishioners, and then became unresponsive, according to the report.

Responding patrols requested Indian Lake Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which administered CPR, police said. Efforts to revive Berg were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the scene by Hamilton County Coroner Donald Townsend.

Berg's body was removed and an autopsy was scheduled for today at Albany Medical Center, police said.

Allen said police and ambulance were on the scene about half an hour after Berg was subdued.

"The man was turning blue by the time the ambulance crew arrived," Allen said, "but they wouldn't come in until the police arrived because they had been told there was a crime scene and shots had been fired."

ILVAC Capt. Brian Boya explained. "Hamilton County dispatched us for that call, but told us to stand back until police arrived on the scene," he said.

Allen said he is among those who heard a sound outside the church before the outburst that could have been a gunshot, but he can't say for sure.

According to Allen the injured are a man cut on his jaw and a woman cut on her head. Both required stitches and were transported to Glens Falls Hospital.

Contact PETE KLEIN at

peteklein@hamiltoncountyexpress.com

     

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