Masked, armed robber invades St. Stephen Episcopal Church in D.C.

Surveillance photo of suspect at church.

A gun-wielding, masked robber invaded St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Columbia Heights Saturday afternoon.

Police and church workers say crime is a growing problem at the church, which is known to have an open-door policy.

The church, on Newton Street NW, just off 16th Street, was founded in 1925 and was the first Episcopal church in D.C. to integrate. It currently houses a dozen non-profit organizations in its basement, including Thrive D.C., which serves meals to 200 people every day.

D.C. police say the suspect ran up and pointed a gun at a 26-year-old man as he walked into the church around 12:30 p.m., then put a gun to the back of the man's head and said "Yo, do you have any money?"

As the victim handed over his wallet, iPhone, and Kindle, Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin walked out of the sanctuary and came face to face with the gunman who then pointed the gun at her.

Police say the gunman walked out the front door and got away.

"That strikes me as crazy,” says Craig Fripp, a neighbor. “Somebody going into a church bringing a gun in there that is unbelievable."

"You want the church to be open, but when something like this happens then you have to consider safety," says Linda Cunniff.

Alicia Horton, director of Thrive D.C. says the church has been victimized before.

“I don't know if the persons, whoever is doing this, feels like they can come in for help,” Horton says. “I don't know what kind of help they need, but they should know that we are here to help them.”

“Folks come in, go right into offices in the middle of the day, steal things out of people's offices,” she says. “I know almost every staff member has had their cars broken into, including myself."

"Any time that anybody goes and just takes advantage of people doing good for someone else that is over the top," says Kevin Shepard, who says he eats breakfast at the church every day.