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Janson Abraham usually leads church services at a home on the 1200 block of Cambridge Drive.
He wasn’t delivering the message on Wednesday night; he was in the back of the house just after 7 p.m. when he heard a disturbance in another room.
It was loud. And violent.
A man had rushed another pastor with a knife.
“I heard the commotion and came out,” he said about the attack. “Four men, including myself, were attacked.”
One man tried to grab the attacker to get him off the pastor, but was stabbed in the neck. Then others, including Abraham, intervened.
In the end, four were left with stab wounds.
One person was killed in the melee — Frank Castillo, a 61-year-old military veteran, husband and father.
Corpus Christi police arrested Marco Antonio Moreno, 28, on suspicion of murder and three charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He remained in Nueces County Jail.
Authorities said Moreno, who at one time attended digital media courses at Del Mar College, was a member of the church, known as Kingdom Acts Ministries. Abraham said he baptized Moreno; an April 2016 photo on Moreno’s Facebook page shows the minister dunking the church member in a swimming pool as part of the ceremony.
“We don’t know what made him do this. But we are … we can extend forgiveness. We can extend love,” Abraham told the Caller-Times after the attack, his left hand still bandaged. “His mother is a part of our church, so we are going to help her in the process because it’s not easy for her.”
Nueces County court records show Moreno has been a defendant in six criminal cases, primarily for nonviolent misdemeanor crimes, such as drug possession and theft. He was acquitted in a May 2014 assault case.
According to the ministry’s Facebook page, Kingdom Acts Ministries is a nonprofit international and nondenominational organization, which is “dedicated to reach the nations with true love, pure Gospel — the Word of God — and service to Humanity.”
It also encourages people in personal character and “cultivating a living and loving relationship with man and God.” The page also states the ministry’s members are dedicated to teaching the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and lifestyle of worship.
Abraham said he and the church’s members are of Christian faith. They also have Sunday services at Harvest Tabernacle International Church, at Annapolis Christian Academy in the 3800 block of South Staples Street.
As many as 20 people were present in the house for the service, police have said.
On Thursday, media crews and residents stood outside the green single-story house where churchgoers have gathered for worship for at least 10 years.
Some neighbors expressed shock at the events from the night before, while others questioned the church’s actions.
When Anthony Fonseca drove to his home Wednesday night, he saw police vehicles all along Cambridge Drive. Immediately he feared for his family’s safety.
He said the church services would draw many cars to the neighborhood.
“The cars are always blocking the driveway, there’s a lot of music, yelling and people come and go,” said Fonseca, 37. “I don’t know what kind of religion they are and what they do.”
Fonseca said he and his family have lived in the neighborhood for eight years. He said he did not have any safety concerns.
“I felt safe because I know everyone here in this neighborhood, but knowing that kind of people are here now makes me think ‘why are they here?’ Can’t they have this somewhere else?”
The house where Kingdom Acts’ services are held was donated to the ministry, said Abraham, who also lives there with his family. Abraham said the church is working on achieving an official nonprofit status for the ministry, which was founded Aug. 22, 2009.
Gloria Gonzalez, 75, didn’t attend the church’s services, but said its pastor performed a marriage ceremony for one of her daughters just last year. She has lived at her home, directly across the street from the church, for more than 50 years.
Gonzalez saw flashing police lights outside Wednesday night and initially thought someone at the church had a stroke or a health issue.
“I still can’t believe this. It’s always been a quiet neighborhood here. I’m in shock,” she said.
“It was something that has never happened here.”
Abraham described Castillo as “a loving husband” and “a committed father,” whom he has known for eight years.
Abraham said services at the residence on Cambridge Drive will be halted as members of the congregation heal, though he does expect to have services at Annapolis Christian Academy this Sunday.
“We have to trust God,” the pastor said. “… In times like this, we need to be there for people who need support.”
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