CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A South Bay funeral service for a child was interrupted Thursday morning by a man who busted into a church and soon was arrested by police at the altar.
Father Paul Selvaraj was in the middle of the service at Church of the Most Precious Blood in Chula Vista when he says he saw the man, later identified by sheriff’s officials as 40-year-old Jose Espinosa, walking toward the altar with his hands up.
It marked the end of a pursuit that began about 10:30 a.m. when the man who was wanted on a felony arrest warrant refused to pull over for deputies on state Route 94, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said.
“Kneeling, hands raised, I saw cops coming in and told all the people to get out,” Selvaraj said. “I said, ‘What is going on?’ Something strange is happening.”
At the time, Selvaraj said the church was full due to the service held inside for an 11-year-old boy who died of an unspecified illness.
“We had some kids also because he was going to school,” he said. “Kids, teachers, parents, families, everybody.”
The slow-speed chase came into Chula Vista after the man circled local neighborhoods on city streets and briefly drove on state Route 125 and Interstate 805, deputies said. He pulled over near the church on Fourth Avenue and Oxford Street about 11:15 a.m. and took off running.
Video captured by OnScene.TV shows people streaming out of the church once authorities arrived.
Selvaraj said the man hopped the back fence and walked inside the church through the front doors. He had his hands up and was speaking incoherently.
“All the people are going away,” he said. “The church almost become empty and I saw all the sheriffs and cops with guns.”
Afterward, Selvaraj says people attending the funeral were hesitant to go back inside.
“I was calling people, some scared,” he remarked.
Selvaraj has been with the church since July. He’s never experienced anything like what happened Thursday.
But he said he is grateful that everyone inside the church was safe.
“We are still processing this experience, which was a tragedy, which we (have) never seen or went through,” he said. “It was a new experience. A whole new experience.”