WEBSTER, Texas – Police used a Taser on a pastor and pepper spray to disperse his congregants Wednesday after the pastor allegedly interfered with a traffic stop in the church parking lot.
Congregants say they were in the Iglesia Profetica Peniel church for an early morning prayer when pastor Jose Elias Moran went to assist the stopped driver, a church member, by asking the police what had happened.
An incident report on the Webster police department’s Web site said Officer Raymond Berryman tried to calm Moran and arrest him. But police say he pushed the officer, went inside the church and returned with 40 other congregants.
The congregants say Moran fled into the church when the officer grew angry and began to yell, and Moran’s family disputes that the pastor touched the officer.
Moran’s son Miguel said 30 witnesses saw the officer turn aggressive and repeatedly kick the church door. Several members were hit with pepper spray and children were present, Miguel Moran said.
“They treated him as if he were a drug dealer or murderer, but he is a pastor that tries to help the community,” Moran said. “The police always want to be right but they are not.”
Moran’s wife, Maria, said she tried to help her husband after he was hit with the Taser but police threatened to arrest her.
“My husband has a heart condition and with electrocution who knows what could’ve happened,” Maria Moran said, referring to the Taser’s electrical shock.
“A pastor has to tend to his flock,” she said. “That is all he was doing.”
Speaking from a hospital bed Wednesday night, Moran told The Associated Press he planned to hire an attorney to file charges against the officer. He was being held at the hospital overnight for additional tests.
Police did not immediately return calls seeking comment and more details of the incident. Police Sgt. James Lovel did not specify Moran’s status, except to say he was in custody and negotiations for bail were taking place Wednesday night.
Webster is a suburb southeast of Houston.