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St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Indian Lake. (Photo/Pete Klein)

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Man attacks, dies at Indian Lake church

Sunday, June 29, 2014 - Updated: 9:03 AM

updated June 30 to add new information and correct a name

By PETE KLEIN

Express News Staff

INDIAN LAKE -- A violent outburst in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church on West Main Street here Saturday, June 28, resulted in one death and two injuries.

The incident began around 4:45 p.m., near the close of afternoon services, when Jason M. Berg, 44, Indian Lake, who had been sitting in a back pew, got up and began yelling obscenities while advancing toward the altar where Father Philip Allen was reciting the closing prayer.

Allen says he thought he heard the man scream, "Pray for me" after Allen said, "Pray for us."

Then, Allen says, Berg rushed up to the altar, continuing to scream angrily, and backhanded candlesticks into the pews, where their heavy bases cut two people.

"There were about 50 people at the service," Allen said.

"He was very disturbed," Allen added.

Allen said his altar boy, Joey DeShaw, saved the day by tackling Berg. Some parishioners then helped hold Berg down, he said.

Allen commented that the 17-year-old altar server is about 50 pounds lighter than Berg. He said Berg struggled violently and eventually stopped moving.

BERG WAS ARMED

According to a press release issued by the State Police, troopers in Indian Lake responded to a report of shots fired at St. Mary's Church. “Responding troopers and Hamilton County sheriff's deputies arrived on scene and determined no shots had been fired in the church and that the suspect was unresponsive.

“Berg was armed with a loaded .45 caliber pistol, a spare magazine, several rounds of ammunition and a pocketknife. Berg violently resisted while being subdued and disarmed by parishioners, and then became unresponsive.”

Indian Lake Volunteer Ambulance Corps administered CPR, but efforts to revive Berg were unsuccessful. He was pronounced deceased at the scene by Hamilton County Coroner Donald Townsend.

Berg's body was removed and an autopsy was scheduled for June 30 at Albany Medical Center.

TOLD TO STAND BACK

Allen said the police and ambulance were on the scene about half an hour after Berg was subdued. "The man was turning blue by the time the ambulance crew arrived," Allen said, "but they wouldn't come in until the police arrived because they had been told there was a crime scene and shots had been fired."

ILVAC Captain Brian Boya explained, "Hamilton County dispatched us for that call, but told us to stand back until police arrived on the scene."

Allen says he is among those who heard a sound outside the church before the outburst that could have been a gunshot, but he can't say for sure.

According to Allen the injured are a man cut on his jaw and a woman cut on her head. Both required stitches and were transported to Glens Falls Hospital.

Berg is the son of a parishioner who lives across the street from the church.

peteklein@hamiltoncountyexpress.com

     

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