Stray bullet lands inside DeLand church

Blessed pastor — Pastor Burt McBryde presides over a food giveaway in December at his church, Antioch Freewill Baptist, 301 W. Beresford Ave. in DeLand. At the church’s Watch Night service Dec. 31-Jan. 1, a bullet that police said was likely fired randomly by a New Year’s Eve reveler came through a window at Antioch, narrowly missing the pastor. 

Blessed pastor — Pastor Burt McBryde presides over a food giveaway in December at his church, Antioch Freewill Baptist, 301 W. Beresford Ave. in DeLand. At the church’s Watch Night service Dec. 31-Jan. 1, a bullet that police said was likely fired randomly by a New Year’s Eve reveler came through a window at Antioch, narrowly missing the pastor. 

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

DeLand parishioners enjoying a Watch Night breakfast shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day were stunned when a bullet shot through a window in the church, landing on the dining-room floor between their pastor and his grandson.

“It came through the window right past my face,” Pastor Burt McBryde said. “The window popped. It sounded like someone had slammed a chair on the floor. I just told everyone to get down.”

Parishioners hit the floor, but no more bullets came. No one was injured. Police attribute the shooting to a random bullet fired in celebration of the arrival of 2018.

McBryde and his congregation had just concluded a New Year’s Eve Watch Night service at Antioch Freewill Baptist Church at 301 W. Beresford Ave., and were gathered for a meal before heading home.

The DeLand Police Department was summoned, and Pastor McBryde said the responding officers were terrific.

“We definitely want to give a shoutout to them, for staying and making sure everyone left the building safely,” McBryde said.

“Where the bullet had entered the building and had struck the ground, it appears that the bullet was stray from someone firing rounds into the air,” according to a report on the incident by Officer David Erndl.

The bullet and images of the broken window were taken as evidence, but no suspects were identified.

Only later, Pastor McBryde said, did he fully realize the danger posed by the gunfire.

“It really didn’t hit me until I got home how serious it could have been,” he said.

Serious, indeed, according to Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who heard the report of the shooting while on New Year’s Eve patrol in Deltona.

“For years I have stressed the importance of law enforcement, on New Year’s Eve, arresting people for indiscriminately opening fire,” Chitwood said. “I have preached all along that it’s only a matter of time before a stray bullet will kill someone. What goes up must come down.”

— Barb Shepherd and Erika Webb

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