PHILADELPHIA, Pa - The sanctuary of the Keystone Fellowship Church used to be a safe place for church members to worship and fellowship with others. That changed abruptly Sunday when a member opened fire during service.
An argument began after Mark Storms, 46, told Robert Braxton III, 27, he was sitting in seats reserved for two other church members, according to a statement made by District Attorney Kevin Steele, The New York Daily News reported.
After a church member tapped Braxton on the shoulder to let him know he was in someone else’s seat, Braxton yelled “don’t (expletive) touch me” an affidavit obtained by NBC Philadelphia said.
Witnesses told reporters that Braxton started making a scene over the seat, but soon calmed down after talking to a church usher and a pastor.
But the situation took a violent turn when Storms approached Braxton, carrying a gun, telling the 27-year-old to get out of the sanctuary.
“When he came over, he had a gun out, escalating the situation,” Steele said at a press conference on Thursday. “Braxton then took a swing at the defendant, punching him in the jaw.”
Braxton then tells Storms “(Expletive) you and your fake badge, get the (expletive) out of here,” according to a witness. “That’s not a real gun,” another witness said she remembered hearing in the their exchange.
Braxton then proceeds to ask, “What are you going to do, shoot me?” according reports.
Storms shot Braxton once in the chest and again in the right arm.
Braxton died of gunshot wounds later that afternoon after being rushed to Abington-Lansdale Hospital.
Storms was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
“Storms’ shooting of Mr. Braxton was not a reasonable self-defense situation,” Steele said. “It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to bring a gun to church.”
“You don’t go to church to be killed. You just don’t do that,” Diana Walters, Braxton’s aunt, told WPVI. “He’s a young man. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
During his arraignment, Storms insisted that he used his weapon for self-defense. Bail is set at $250,000.