Bishop Lamor Whitehead was delivering a sermon when three armed men burst into the Leader’s of Tomorrow International Ministry in Canarsie at around 11:15 am, the NYPD said in a statement.
Mr. Whitehead can be heard saying “alright alright”, seen putting his hands up and then getting down on the ground as a masked assailant appears onscreen in the live-streamed footage, obtained by ABC7.
The men demanded jewelry from Mr. Whitehead, 44, and his 38-year-old wife, police said.
In an Instagram post after the incident, Mr. Whitehead said: “When I see them come into the sanctuary with their guns, I told everybody to get out, everybody just get out. I didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the church up or if they were just coming for a robbery.”
Mr. Whitehead said the men took all of his and his wife’s jewelry, including his wedding band.
The suspects fled the church on foot, got into a white Mercedes Benz and were last seen traveling eastbound on Avenue D, police said.
In the Instagram post, Mr. Whitehead said he tried to chase the men out of the church after they fled.
Many in the congregation had been left traumatized by the incident, including his young daughter.
“To the women in my ministry, to see tears in your eyes, to see the hurt, and the pain, and the violation. Thank you for continuing to trust the mission.”
He also criticised those who accused him of “scamming” churchgoers.
“It’s not about me being flashy. It’s about me purchasing what I want to purchase,” he said. “Y’all not gonna tear me down by your childish thoughts. I’m going to stay focused.”
Mr. Whitehead appealed for information in apprehending the assailants, and said he was already receiving tips.
Estimates of the value of the stolen jewelry are over 1 million.
No-one was injured in the robbery, police said.