Pastor's Shooting Was Possibly Premeditated

By Joshua Partlow and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 8, 2006

Prince George's County police are looking into the possibility that a slain Suitland minister was not the victim of a random shooting but was targeted for personal reasons.

The Rev. Milton L. Moore, pastor of Warriors for Christ Ministries, was shot outside his ministry Wednesday morning. Police are following leads that the killing may have been premeditated, said a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Police declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting.

No arrests have been made, said Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a police spokesman. Detectives are following leads from people who said they heard arguing outside the ministry building before the shooting took place. The ministry is in the 2400 block of Brooks Drive and shares a parking lot with Drew-Freeman Middle School.

Moore, 50, grew up in Albany, Ga., was married with four children, and had run the ministry since the late 1990s. In addition to being a religious center, the three-story building served as a transitional home for as many as 20 families, according to a ministry official.

The slaying outraged local religious leaders and focused attention on church security. The Rev. Jonathan Weaver, a pastor of the Greater Mount Nebo African Methodist Episcopal Church in Bowie, said that he has referred people to Moore's ministry and that his death is a "major tragedy."

"I am deeply saddened by what happened," he said. "It is not a question of size of the church, because the size of the problem has gotten so big in terms of the level of danger that it can affect any church."

Although police were focusing on personal motives, they have not ruled out the possibility of random street crime.

Weaver's church was robbed on Christmas Day last year, and he said police officers in his congregation help watch over other members.

"We used to not equate crime with a bedroom community or the faith community, but I am afraid that now we find serious crimes being perpetuated in these areas," he said.

In 2000, Monsignor Thomas Wells was fatally stabbed during a robbery and burglary at the Mother Seton Parish rectory in Germantown. A 26-year-old man who claimed that the priest had sexually assaulted him was convicted of second-degree murder in 2001.

The Rev. Jeffrey M. Defayette, pastor of St. Matthias the Apostle Catholic Church in Lanham, was based at Mother Seton before Wells's death, and the killing reinforced his awareness that security needs to be a top priority, he said. At St. Matthias, he added an alarm system and motion detectors, revamped outdoor lighting, trimmed overhanging limbs that obscured views from inside the church and installed a security camera so that the secretary can see who is at the door.

"We live, unfortunately, in an era where there are people . . . bent on doing some form of evil for their own means, whether that be for money or for property or for prestige," Defayette said. "We try to be accommodating to our parishioners but also conscious of the fact that we need to be security savvy."

St. Matthias has experienced some thefts -- two snowblowers, some garden equipment -- and vandalism during Defayette's six year tenure. "If that's the worst that happens to us, we consider ourselves blessed," he said.

In Moore's killing, police said approximately four shots were fired about 7 a.m., and the minister was struck once in the upper body. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition and died later that day.

Moore's wife and children, along with staff members at the ministry, have not talked publicly about his slaying. A family representative said yesterday that the family would speak to reporters today and discuss funeral arrangements.

Warriors for Christ is a grass-roots ecumenical ministry that focuses on providing assistance to poor and homeless families. Its Web site says the ministry is "training up a body of bold 'Warriors' to go forth . . . setting the captives free."

Staff writer Ruben Castaneda contributed to this report.

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