Pastor says security team will 'tighten things up' in wake of today's tot-grabbing incident
A routine Sunday service at EverPresent Church in Downtown Batavia turned into alarm and some confusion around 12:30 today when a little boy in the toddler room was grabbed by a male guest and brought into the sanctuary while Pastor Jason Norton was preaching.
The man was immediately approached by ushers and he left the child, exited the building, and drove off in his blue Toyota. No one was injured. Someone snapped a photo of his license plate.
After communicating with nursery workers, the Emergency Dispatch Center was called straightaway and Norton said this afternoon that police are investigating the incident, which was dispatched as a "suspicious condition."
Norton would not identify the guest, but said he is elderly, from Rochester, and has only been living in Batavia for a couple of months and has attended services alone at 4 Batavia City Centre about four or five times. The pastor said he has no other information about him or his mental health.
"He seemed nice enough," Norton said. "But you never know."
The church, now in its sixth year, has about 50 to 55 congregants. A couple of young women volunteer for childcare during services and there is a security team in place that keeps an eye on things.
The guest that abruptly went into the nursery, though he had no family members there, had left the sanctuary to go to the men's room, which is in the same area as the nursery.
A nursery volunteer told Norton he attempted to grab one child and was asked about permission or family ties, something to that effect, confusion ensued, and he grabbed the tot's brother instead, proceeded to the sanctuary, and sat down.
"It happened so quickly," Norton said, adding that initially they were reluctant to talk about the incident publicly, thinking it made their security look weak.
"I said 'Maybe it is weak. We need to tighten things up,' " Norton said. "We don't know our weaknesses until they're exposed. This kind of thing can happen anywhere. That's the world we live in today. No one was hurt. It could have ended much differently."
Norton said the man "has been trespassed" -- meaning he will not be allowed back on the property.
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