New York Daily News: BROOKLYN – The flashy Brooklyn minister robbed at gunpoint mid-sermon returned to his Brooklyn church Sunday — and lay down on the floor to reenact the heist for his parishioners.
“We could’ve been planning our funerals,” Bishop Lamor Whitehead told worshipers. “But we made it.”
During his sermon in the rented-out Canarsie workspace that doubles as his church, Whitehead reflected on the events of last Sunday — and the video that went viral worldwide showing him lying down in the middle of the sermon as the crooks raided the room.
“I got a phone call,” Whitehead said of the attention. “They said, ‘You’re in Ukraine.’”
Lamor was preaching at Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministry on Remsen Ave near Avenue D about 11:15am on July 24 when three masked bandits stormed into the church, video shows. Whitehead stopped his sermon and crouched down, saying, “Yo, all right, all right, all right” as he lay on the floor.
Police sources told the Daily News Whitehead’s stolen jewelry was worth $1 million though Whitehead told a Daily News reporter in an exclusive sit-down interview last week that figure is inflated and inaccurate. He declined to give his own estimate.
Whitehead rolled up to church in his Rolls-Royce convertible Sunday and preached to a crowd of about 20 worshipers. He discussed a Bible passage where King David brutally smites, with God’s blessing, those who stole from him.
Whitehead wore a Gucci and Balenciaga suit Sunday with Gucci loafers along with a large ring on his right hand showcasing an oversized red gemstone. At one point, Whitehead removed a heavy gold watch and placed it on a table by his pulpit.
His family and friends expressed concern over what he was planning to wear to church, he said.
“I’m gonna wear my Gucci,” Whitehead told parishioners he told them, “because God says, ‘You are my chosen vessel.’ He didn’t tell me I couldn’t wear what I want to wear.”
“‘Why’s he gotta wear Gucci?’” he said, imitating his critics. “Because I want to. It is my civil right to wear what I want to wear. … We are a church of wealth. We’re not a church of poverty.”
Less than half the seats were filled, but a parishioner who only gave her name as Tonya supported Whitehead.
“People are talking about, ‘Oh, maybe he was the one who set himself up, it could be an insurance scam.’ Or ‘He’s a bling-bling pastor,’” she said, “If he works hard, why can’t we wear what we want to wear?”
“You would think that there would be more support, like more pastors, more of the community out here to support him,” she added. “What I find is that he’s not getting a lot of sympathy.”
Whitehead said some worshipers claiming they were too scared to come to church were just looking for an excuse to skip out.
“When they shot up the club last week,” he said, rhetorically, “you was back there the next week.”
Missing parishioners too traumatized to attend included the pastor’s wife and children, who Whitehead said had not “stopped crying” all week. One of the crooks held a gun to his 8-month-old daughter’s head, Whitehead says.
Parishioner Krystal Moore said she wasn’t at services during the robbery but that she “felt secure” Sunday morning.
“I really enjoyed the service,” she said. “I wasn’t even thinking about [the robbery] half the time. I was really in the moment.”
The bishop also spoke at length about a recently surfaced lawsuit accusing him of defrauding a former congregant out of her life savings after promising to buy her a house with the money.
“If that was my parishioner,” Whitehead said, referring to the plaintiff in the case, “where are they?”
“Oh, it’s an elderly lady and that’s my savings,” Whitehead said mockingly before shouting, “That’s what the enemy wants you to believe.”
On Friday, Whitehead raised eyebrows when he held a press conference to urge elected officials to pass a law allowing clergy to carry guns to protect themselves and their congregations.
“They don’t like Bishop Whitehead because I am God-made, not man-made,” he said Sunday of his critics.
Top Feature Photo: Whitehead preaches about the “enemies” of the church Sunday – Peter Senzamici/Peter Senzamici