Priest Killed During Mass on Long Island

Gunman Also Slays Worshipper in Rockville Centre Diocese

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LYNBROOK, New York, MARCH, 12, 2002 ( A man armed with a rifle opened fire in a Catholic church during Mass, killing a 73-year-old worshipper and a priest, who had just finished delivering the homily.

Father Lawrence Penzes, 50, was shot during Mass at Our Lady of Peace Church at Lynbrook on Long Island. There were about 40 people at the Mass, officials said.

Police surrounded a nearby house where the suspect was believed to be hiding. Nassau County Police Inspector Pete Matuza said the home has several apartments and that the suspect lives in one of them, according to the Associated Press.

The shooting happened during the 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Peace Church, said Karen Montalbano, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The gunman entered the church and fired several shots about 9:10 a.m., Matuza said. As he fled, he was chased by two parishioners, one of them an off-duty police officer, who managed to wrestle the rifle away from him, but the man escaped into the house about a block away. He was described as being 35 to 40 years old.

Lynbrook Mayor Eugene Scarpato said parishioner Eileen Tosner, 73, was found slumped in a pew; shot in the face.

Father Robert McGuire, who worked with Father Penzes at St. Pius X Church in Plainview in the late 1980s, said, «He was a wonderful guy. He was a very outgoing guy and a very, very generous man.»

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