POMPANO BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - A man appeared in a Broward County courtroom hoping for some mercy after he was caught on surveillance video tackling a deacon in the middle of a service at a church in Pompano Beach, leaving the victim bruised and shaken up.
The security footage showed the assailant, identified as 28-year-old Thomas Eisel, running toward Deacon George Labelle during Mass at St. Coleman Catholic Church, Saturday evening.
Prior to the attack, Deacon Labelle could be seen speaking to the congregation about turning the other cheek while he paced back and forth.
Moments later, Eisel is seen standing up and walking away from the pews before he charged at Deacon Labelle.
The men are seen tussling for several seconds before church members hop to their feet to help the deacon.
“Naturally, they want to try to defend him. You don’t know what’s going through the guy’s mind,” said parishioner Tim Gilmore. “You don’t know whether he’s got a knife or something.”
One of the church members that rushed to the deacon’s assistance was off-duty Broward Sheriff’s Office Lt. Steve Feeley, who was sitting several rows behind Eisel. Feeley said he knew something felt off.
“You know, he was very fidgety,” Feeley said. “He was giving thumbs up to people, giving thumbs up during the service to the priest on the alter. He was just rocking back and forth. He stood up and made a beeline for the deacon. I didn’t anticipate him going over and literally tackling the deacon right in the middle of the service, but that’s what he did, and myself and a bunch of other people from St. Coleman’s were able to get him down.”
After getting the 28-year-old on the ground, the deputy and other good Samaritans held him down until deputies responded. According to Feeley, while on the ground, Eisel started to pray, including reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
“We were not going to let him up under any circumstances, and there were people that were sitting on him,” Feeley said. “My wife was sitting on his legs.”
Eisel was placed under arrest and appeared in bond court over the weekend. He was charged with one count of battery and one count of disturbing the peace.
“It’s kind of infuriating, you know, that all that stuff is going on out there,” said parishioner Jay Parcel. “It’s just not safe anymore.”
“You know, I think it’s just a comment on the way society is going now,” a parishioner said. “It’s getting crazy out there.”
Court records show Eisel is on probation after being convicted back in 2017 for battery on a person over the age of 65.
“I don’t think you should go through life being afraid of being in places,” Feeley said. “I think you should go through life paying attention.”
After the in-service stunt, the judge opted to deny him bond.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Miami called the incident unfortunate and said Labelle suffered some bruises but is otherwise OK, and according to Feeley, the deacon was able to finish the service.
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