Bishop Lamor Miller-Whitehead, known for his friendship with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and driving around New York in a Rolls-Royce, was speaking at his Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries when three robbers walked in, police said.
They allegedly flashed guns and demanded property from Bishop Whitehead and his wife before fleeing in a white Mercedes.
In a video of the service, which was being live streamed but has since been removed from the church’s social media channels, Bishop Whitehead is heard asking his flock: “How many of you have lost your faith because you saw somebody else die?” moments before the men enter the church.
Just before the robbery began, footage of the sermon posted on YouTube showed Mr. Whitehead posing a question to his congregation: “How many of you have lost your faith because you saw somebody else die?” Almost immediately after, a trio of armed and masked individuals in black clothing entered the church, according to Mr. Whitehead, the police and the footage.
Seconds after his question, Mr. Whitehead appeared to spot the intruders as they entered the church and he lay down on the raised stage while raising his arms. “I didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the church up, or if they were just coming for a robbery,” he said in the Instagram post. Shrieks could be heard from the parishioners. It was unclear how many people were in attendance.
He described lying on the ground with a gun pointed at him and subsequently being stripped of belongings, including his watch, multiple chains, wedding band and bishop’s cross. He said the assailants wrenched off his clergy collar to reach his necklaces. Mr. Whitehead said he believed the intruders did not know that they were being filmed.
“Took off my bishop’s ring, my wedding band and took off my bishop chain, and then I had chains underneath my robe, and he start tapping my neck to see if (there was) anything else — so that means they knew, they watched and they knew that I have other jewelry,” he said.
Whitehead said there were gunmen with firearms raised to deacons at the door as well. There were about 20 to 25 congregants present, police said.
“My church is traumatized,” Whitehead said.
The preacher said he forgives the robbers and is praying for them.
Police said the attackers were believed to have taken around $400,000 worth of jewelry in total before fleeing the service on foot and entering a white Mercedes Benz. The preacher says the jewelry was worth a $ Million.
Whitehead, served five years behind bars for a 2006, 2 $million, identity theft scam.
Whitehead believes his family was targeted because of the publicity he received when he helped turn in the suspect wanted in the fatal subway shooting of 48-year-old Daniel Enriquez in May.
“I turned him in, but the media called me ‘the bling, bling bishop.’ They had my Rolls-Royce caw all over everywhere and I feel that that played a part in this,” said Whitehead. “I think all pastors should be able to get permits for pistols.”