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N.Y. bishop and wife robbed of around $1M in jewelry during livestreamed service

Bishop Lamor Whitehead was delivering his sermon in Brooklyn's Canarsie neighborhood when three gunmen burst in, police said.
Image: Bishop Lamor Miller Whitehead
Bishop Lamor Whitehead and his wife were robbed during a livestreamed sermon Sunday, police said.Johnny Nunez / Getty Images file

The armed assailants who robbed a Brooklyn bishop and his wife after storming a livestreamed service Sunday made off with $1 million worth of jewely, police said, after initially saying the value was believed to be around $400,000.

Bishop Lamor Whitehead was in the middle of delivering his sermon at the Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries church in Canarsie when three gunmen burst in around 11:15 a.m., the NYPD said.

The armed assailants "displayed firearms and demanded property" from the 44-year-old bishop and his wife, 38, police said.

“When I see them come into the sanctuary with their guns, I told everybody to get out, everybody just get out,” Whitehead said in a video posted to Instagram following the incident. “I didn’t know if they wanted to shoot the church up or if they were just coming for a robbery.”

In the end, he said he was thankful that it was the latter, but said "they took all of my wife's jewelry and took all of my jewelry," including his wedding band.

In video shared online by local media outlets appearing to show the incident, which was captured on a livestream that appears to have since been taken down, Whitehead can be heard saying "alright, alright," before dropping to the ground on his hands and knees.

A masked suspect can later be seen approaching the bishop and holding what appears to be a firearm pointed at his back, before appearing to make away with his jewelry. The video has not yet been independently verified by NBC News.

Police initially said the attackers were believed to have taken around $400,000 worth of jewelry, but later said the value could be as high as around $1 million.

The suspects fled the service on foot before entering a white Mercedes Benz. They were last seen traveling eastbound on Avenue D, police said.

In his video posted to Instagram, Whitehead said he tried to chase the suspects after they fled.

He said he hoped they would turn themselves in over the incident, which he said had left many in his congregation "traumatized."

"The women and children that was in my church, my daughter, she's traumatized right now. She's not even talking," he said.

The bishop also pushed back against comments and headlines that described him as "flashy" with his jewelry in his livestreamed services.

"It's not about me being flashy. It's about me purchasing what I want to purchase," he said. "If I worked hard for it, I can purchase what I want to purchase."

Police said there were no physical injuries reported in connection with the robbery. They said an investigation was still ongoing.

Whitehead had made headlines in May after he said he was trying to negotiate the surrender of Andrew Abdullah, a 25-year-old suspect in the fatal shooting of Goldman Sachs employee Daniel Enriquez, who was shot aboard a Manhattan-bound Q train. 

Abdullah was ultimately arrested by police separately, however.

Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.