A showy pastor who was in the middle of delivering his sermon and his wife were robbed at gunpoint of more than $1 million worth of jewelry at a Brooklyn church on Sunday, the police said. The heist was caught on a livestream video of the service.
Lamor M. Whitehead, 44, a bishop at the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in the southeastern Brooklyn neighborhood of Canarsie, spoke about the armed robbery in an Instagram post, calling it an example of “how the devil moves.”
“The devil don’t care; he sent them,” Mr. Whitehead said. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Whitehead, an ally of Mayor Eric Adams who has appeared publicly with him on occasion, describes himself as having been “adopted” by Mr. Adams as a “mentee.”
Last year, he ran an unsuccessful campaign to succeed Mr. Adams as Brooklyn borough president. “Thank You Eric Adams For Your Leadership I Will Take It From Here,” he wrote on Instagram in June.
This spring, Mr. Whitehead tried to help broker the surrender of a murder suspect in an attention-grabbing case.
“No one in this city should be the victim of armed robbery, let alone our faith leaders and congregants worshiping in a House of God,” the mayor said in a statement on Monday. “The N.Y.P.D. is investigating this crime and will work tirelessly to bring the criminals involved to justice.”
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.
Jewelry was also taken from Mr. Whitehead’s 38-year-old wife, the police said, adding that neither of the victims was injured. After the theft, which took place shortly after 11 a.m., the three individuals fled on foot and entered a white Mercedes-Benz vehicle. They were last seen driving away, the police said, and no arrests had been made. An investigation was ongoing, the New York Police Department said.
In the Instagram post on Sunday, Mr. Whitehead addressed the thieves and asked them to turn themselves in. He told them that their actions had traumatized parishioners including young children, who he said were still crying. He said a gun had been in his 8-month-old daughter’s face.
“You did this to the church, the church where I’m sure your grandmother praises God and Jesus,” he said. “There’s no reason for you to come inside a church and violate it.”
Mr. Whitehead also responded to criticism calling him “flashy” for his accessories and his Rolls-Royce.
“It’s about me purchasing what I want to purchase,” Mr. Whitehead said. “It’s my prerogative to purchase what I want to purchase if I worked hard for it.”
He also expressed gratitude to God that his church had avoided a mass shooting, a fatal scenario that he noted other congregations had experienced. He promised he would be back on the pulpit to preach this Sunday.
Mr. Whitehead said in a Facebook livestream on Monday that he was offering a $50,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest of the armed robbers.
Alex Traub contributed reporting.