LYNBROOK, N.Y. (AP) _ A man armed with a rifle opened fire during a church service Tuesday, killing the priest and a female worshipper, authorities said Tuesday.
Police in riot gear surrounded a nearby house where the suspect was believed to be holed up. Nassau County Police Inspector Pete Matuza said the home has several apartments and that the suspect lives in one of them.
``He's still in there, as far as we know,'' Matuza said shortly before 1 p.m. ``We have not made contact with him.''
It was not clear whether any other people remained inside the house and it was not known if the suspect was armed, he said.
The shooting happened during the 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Peace Church, said Karen Montalbano, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. She said the Rev. Lawrence Penzes, 50, and a worshipper were both killed.
The suspect, described as 35 to 40 years old, 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.
Lynbrook Mayor Eugene Scarpato described the worshipper who was killed as a woman in her 70s. He said she was apparently shot in the face, while Penzes was shot in the back.
About three dozen people normally attend the service at the Catholic church, according to a church worker who would not give her name. The woman said Penzes had just finished delivering the homily when he was shot.
Jeanette Stingone, who lives just down the street from the church, said she was leaving for work when a police officer told her to go back into her house.
``I looked outside and there were police with guns drawn,'' she said by telephone. ``Right now they're just kind of out there staring at this one house and they're not letting any of us leave.''
A school adjacent to the church with 400 students in grades 1 through 8 was locked down. Inside the church, several parishioners were being questioned by police, Scarpato said.
The Rockville Centre diocese, which encompasses Nassau and Suffolk counties, is home to 1.5 million Catholics.
The Rev. Robert McGuire, who worked with Penzes at St. Pius X church in Plainview in the late 1980s, describe Penzes as ``a very outgoing guy and a very, very generous man.''
Sal Manzo, 39, a long-time parishioner who lives two blocks from the church, called Penzes ``a nice man who cared about kids to the hundredth power.''