By Charlotte Alter
January 3, 2016

A North Carolina pastor says he disarmed a man who came into his church with a rifle during a New Year’s Eve prayer service by talking the man into putting the weapon down and praying for him.

Fayetteville city councilman Larry Wright was preaching to his congregation at Heal the Land Outreach Ministries about reducing community violence when he saw a man enter the church with a rifle in one hand and ammunition in the other. Wright, who is retired from the army, says he realize from the glint of the ammunition magazine that the bullets were real, and the weapon likely was as well.

Wright says he was the first to see the man, who appeared to be in his 20s or early 30s, and stepped down from the pulpit to ask “‘Can I help you?'” Wright, who is 6-foot-2, had decided that if the man got antagonistic, he would tackle him. Instead the man asked the pastor to pray for him, CNN reports, and Wright was able to take the weapon and summoned four deacons to hug the man, who fell to his knees and began to cry.

Wright then invited the man to sit in the front row of the church as he finished the New Year’s Eve ceremony. Then, he told CNN, “I came down and prayed with him and we embraced. It was like a father embracing a son.” The man then stood up and apologized to the more than 60 churchgoers, telling them that he had planned to commit violence that night but that God had intervened.

Police took the man, who was not named in news reports, to a local hospital for a medical evaluation, according to the Fayetteville Observer.

Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com.

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