Armed man who took over church released on bail by judge
A man charged with making a terrorist threat Sunday at a Limestone County church that he entered with two handguns was released from jail Tuesday on $50,000 bail.
Additional conditions on the release of Thomas Zebulun Lewter, according to the order by Limestone County Circuit Judge Robert Baker filed Tuesday, were that he have no contact with his wife or children and that he not go to the premises of O’Neal Church of Christ.
Baker also ordered the 34-year-old to “surrender all firearms to the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office” and that he “possess no firearms of any kind until further order of court.”
According to the Sheriff’s Office and an affidavit signed by his wife, Lewter entered O’Neal Church of Christ and complained about his wife’s June 19 filing of a divorce complaint. Sheriff Mike Blakely said Lewter was armed with a two-shot Judge handgun and a semi-automatic pistol.
“During the service, he approached the pulpit and announced that he was sorry he was going to have to do what he had to do. He was armed with a handgun,” his wife wrote in an affidavit.
Some members of the congregation left the church service and others tried to persuade him to sit down, according to the Sheriff’s Office. When he appeared to be pulling a handgun out, a retired deputy and two other church members subdued him, according to Blakely.
He is charged with a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Also on Tuesday, his wife filed a motion in the divorce case asking that he be required to submit to a psychiatric examination “to determine whether the defendant constitutes a threat to himself or others and whether or not he is capable of visiting the children without causing harm to his children.”
His wife requested and received Monday a protection-from-abuse order prohibiting Lewter from having contact with his wife or children.
Lewter, a contractor who previously had an Athens address, is now listed in court records as residing on Shipley Hollow Road in Elkmont.
In a statement late Monday, elders at O’Neal Church of Christ said Sunday’s incident was unfortunate, but that it was resolved. “By the quick actions of members of the congregation, we were able to resolve with no physical injuries,” the statement read.
“We continued our worship and with the grace of God will continue to worship as normal,” the statement continued. “We ask for your prayers for our congregation and all families involved as we move forward. We thank everyone for the outpouring of love, concern and prayers. Let us help these families to heal by allowing them their privacy.”
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