Parishioners React During Church Robbery - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Parishioners React During Church Robbery

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Saturday evening mass at St. Michaels in Ray was one that those in attendance won't soon forget. A man wanted for murder in Illinois interrupted services by walking in with a shotgun and demanding money.

Nathan Schell was at mass with his family when 54-year-old Billy Varner walked into the church. He says the situation was scary, but what he and a few other parishioners did helped police catch Varner.

Schell says Father Benny was in the middle of his homily when Varner walked in and demanded money.

"Everyone was covered up underneath the pews, and he said no one will get hurt, and pointed the gun at Father Benny, and Father Benny collected people's money," says parishoner Nathan Schell.

After he got the money, Schell says Varner told everyone to give him five minutes to leave the church. As soon as Varner left, Schell says his dad gave him a look, and they both got up.

"After he left, my father went one way, and I went another way and we got a description of the vehicle," says Schell.

Schell and another church member got into a car and followed Varner's car.

"We headed west, got on Highway 2, and there was two vehicles in between us. And we stayed on the phone with 911 and the dispatch, and just kept giving them updates where this guy was," says Schell.

Police eventually arrested Varner at the 13 mile corner, and found out he was wanted for two murders in Illinois. Officers say they are always on high alert in the oil patch.

"Anymore it's so sporadic. We'll have very large incidents, to very small incidents. It's very sporadic when these incidents happen," said Detective Caleb Fry of the Williams County Sheriff Department.

Schell says he decided to follow the car  to make sure Varner wasn't able to get away and do this to somebody else.

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