Police confronted a man outside a South Richmond church who was beating on a church door, yelling racial slurs and threatening the congregation during a regular Thursday night service, according to police and one witness.

A police officer who was working security at United Nations Church International in the 5200 block of Midlothian Turnpike pointed a gun at the man, thinking he had a knife, according to police Capt. Chris Gleason.

The man instead had been beating on the door with a long piece of plastic, and he ultimately was taken into custody after backup officers arrived to assist, Gleason said.

Police consulted with the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and determined the man had not violated the law, Gleason said. He was taken under an emergency commitment order to Tucker Pavilion at Chippenham Hospital for 72-hour observation. Police did not identify the man.

"I never thought I'd see the day when police have to be at church," Gleason told unnerved congregants after the ordeal had ended.

The incident started about 8:45 p.m. when children inside the black church saw a white man banging on the door, using a racial slur and saying, "You're taking over," according to Lydia Jones, a church member.

Some witnesses initially thought the object the man was holding was a machete, she said.

The officer working security there pulled her gun and ordered the man to drop the object, but he would not immediately do so, Jones said.

About seven police cars arrived, she said, and the man ultimately dropped the object.

"It was very alarming," Jones said.

mwilliams@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6815

Twitter: @RTDMPW

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